“If you can’t be with the films you love, love the ones you’re with.”
“If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?”
-Merida in Brave
When Tammy called and asked if I wanted to see Madagascar 3 with them a few weeks ago, I had to remind myself that sometimes one goes to see movies one doesn’t want to see because it is nice to spend time with friends, and I went. I am a fan of animation, but I have ignored this franchise almost entirely, other than this Christmas short which features the penguins and which I’ve seen many times, as it is hilarious.
There’s been some discussion in Film Club lately about expectations and how they impact our experience of a film. In this case, I expected a stupid film (I don’t think highly of DreamWorks’ animated features) and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The plot is, yes, ridiculous to the point of incomprehensibility (in order to get from Africa to New York City, the animals go to Europe and buy a circus), but I laughed a lot watching it, mostly at the penguins, whose brisk, droll interactions are inspired. I think they’re some of the funniest animated characters created in the last couple decades (after maybe Dory from Finding Nemo and that crazy dog (“SQUIRREL!”) from Up). We also still haven’t stopped singing this song.
I am maybe going to watch the other two films in this series. My godsons insist I should.
I had high, Pixar-level expectations when I took the boys to see this film opening weekend, and I was not disappointed. The film has inspired a fair number of negative or middling reviews, but I thought it was extraordinary. At one point, Lucas leaned over to me and whispered, “That girl is SMART.” And I thought, Well played, Pixar. Visually, I think this is Pixar’s finest work, stunning and stylized in a way that is more artistic than simply doing its best within the constraints of what a computer can do. It reminded me of those gorgeous paintings in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, which, from a visual standpoint, is one of my favorite animated features ever.
In terms of story, Brandon talked about Brave being about mothers and daughters, which I guess on one level it is, but to me it’s about any deep and loving relationship–the way two people can learn each other’s flaws intimately, how difficult it can be to let the other person be who she is, and how anger can lead to the worst, most regrettable kinds of decisions. And it’s serious about taking responsibility–for yourself, for the people you love, for your own actions, and for your future. The part of the film that left me sitting there trying not to sob is when Merida finally stops insisting that what has happened isn’t her fault. “I did this,” she says, and it’s true. Admitting that to herself and the person she wronged is what finally begins to repair the mess she created. I thought that was so beautiful, and I felt glad to have my godsons there seeing that. I was glad to be sitting there seeing that.
When the credits started rolling, Lucas, Maxwell, and I clapped for a good minute or two. No one else in the theater was clapping, so Maxwell turned around and gave everyone else a narrow-eyed look of disgust. Then he clapped a little louder and said “Can you believe they’re leaving EARLY?” when people started leaving before the credits were over.* Yet another sign that we’re raising those children properly.
*For the record, this was the first time I’d been to the movies with Maxwell when he wasn’t complaining about staying until the credits were over, so this was a major achievement, as far as I’m concerned. I may be more proud of this than I am of teaching him not to use his hair as a napkin.