A fearless warrior and a cuddly teddy bear: Guess which film is for kids?
With its new animated adventure Brave , Pixar Studios has taken a few chances, and they’ve paid off. Not only is the principal character female — something of a rarity in animation, in any case — but this is also the first Pixar production that takes place in the past.
Set in medieval Scotland, the story incorporates some of the region’s history and mythology (particularly the latter), and if it throws in bits of Irish, English and Welsh lore as well, who’s complaining? This is yet another winner for Pixar, enthusiastically paced and gorgeously rendered in imaginative ways that maintain the high quality of craftsmanship that is a Pixar staple.
Kelly Macdonald winningly voices the impetuous, adventurous Princess Merida, whose parents (voiced by Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly) wish would be a bit more demure and ladylike. Like any adolescent, animated or otherwise,
Merida’s bound to rebel against such parental constraints and demands.
Following a tournament designed for the victor to win Merida’s hand in marriage — which she herself wins, in order to avoid betrothal — she uses a witch’s spell in order to change her fate.
That’s where Merida’s impetuousness gets her into trouble, as well as being a prime example of being careful about what one wishes for (as well as the precise wording of the wish), but this development also shifts the film — which is far more humorous than the advertising would indicate — into a higher gear, one that is manages to sustain in confident style.
Other notables who essay voiceover roles include Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Pixar perennial John Ratzenberger, and even the film’s composer, Patrick Doyle. All are in fine form and fine voice.
There has been some debate over the film’s director(s): Brenda Chapman, who penned the original story and worked on the screenplay, departed the production before its completion and was succeeded — or replaced — by fellow screenwriter Mark Andrews, making his feature directorial debut. Nevertheless, the end result is fairly seamless, and judging by the film’s box-office take to date, most audiences evidently don’t concern themselves with such behind-the-scenes controversy. In any event, Brave is a laudable achievement for all involved, and surefire entertainment for all ages.
Seth MacFarlane, the creator of TV’s “Family Guy” and “American Dad,” makes the leap to the big screen with Ted , his first foray into feature filmmaking. Unencumbered by network standards, this outrageous comedy allows full, R-rated reign to MacFarlane’s brand of humor. The title character may be a cute teddy bear, but this is hardly a children’s story.
MacFarlane also provides the voice for the titular Ted, who came to life as a result of a wistful Christmas wish by little John Bennett (Bretton Manley), who never had a friend to call his own. The walking, talking Ted became something of a media darling for a time, although his celebrity status was later tarnished by misbehavior and scandal. Ted may be cute and cuddly, but he’s also got a thirst for drink, a penchant for drugs and a lust for the ladies — and they only intensify over the years.
Although now an adult, John (Mark Wahlberg) still considers Ted his best friend, and Ted feels likewise about John. Into their idyllic existence a ripple is inevitable, and it comes in the alluring form of John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis, a good sport in a thankless role), who wishes that John would “grow up.” This means letting go of Ted, which John is understandably reluctant to do, given how much fun he and his bear have together. It’s the story of a boy and his bear, best buds forever.
With a fun use of Boston locations and a brazen, envelope-shredding sense of humor — the film is politically, socially, sexually and morally incorrect, and proud of it — Ted delivers big laughs at a steady clip. The film’s special effects are ingeniously rendered, and MacFarlane’s voiceover turn as Ted gives the character the personality necessary to bring the concept to fruition.
After all, Ted’s the star of the movie, and for all his drinking, whoring and partying, he is lovable. He’s truly John’s best friend and truly cares about him. Wahlberg essentially plays the straight man here, but he has no problem conceding the floor to his diminutive
co-star, whereas other actors might attempt to upstage Ted. That’s not to say that Wahlberg, or the other “human” actors, don’t acquit themselves well here, but for Ted to work, Ted has to work.
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