Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
If you haven’t seen it yet, everything you think you know about the new Disney movie “Brave” … is wrong.
By all appearances from the trailers and ads, “Brave” looks like a girl-power story of feminist angst railing against the stupidity of overbearing old folks, encouraging teens to shuffle off their parental coil through the throes of rebellion – another typical “kids are really smart, grown-ups are stupid” story that the sinful nature of children just gobbles up, but in effect undermines biblical values and the family (see “Little Mermaid” for an example of how this is done).
That’s exactly what Disney wanted you to believe.
They were pulling the wool over your eyes. On purpose.
In a gutsy, but ultimately, brilliant move, “Brave” spends its first 30 minutes looking like every other wrong-headed animated movie and uses up every minute of every trailer you’ve seen thus far, but then takes a sudden and shocking, 180-degree turn into a whole new story audiences … never … saw … coming.
And the new story is a dramatically better tale than the one we expected.
Oh, and if you also expected it to be a kids’ movie … you were wrong on that account too. This is a film for grown-ups.
For starters, it’s frightening and extremely tense and dramatic, particularly in the relationship between the mother and daughter. There were little girls in my Cineplex leaping into their mommys’ laps and even running in tears from the theater, crying, “I don’t like this!” No kidding: There was weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is NOT a film for small children.
But for teenagers, parents and other reasonably grown-ups? This is a film not to be missed.
The story begins with a fiery Scottish princess who resists her hen-pecking mother’s attempts to refine her wild spirit, while kicking against the goads of an upcoming contest among the men to win her hand in marriage.
But when the princess turns to a deep-woods witch to cast a spell on her demanding mother, she discovers the result much less enchanting than she had hoped. In fact, the young lady’s “Monkey’s Paw” experience with magic forces her to face her own demons, her own foolishness and her own sinful pride. Not only is the mother changed, but so is the daughter, and the humbling of the rebellious, proud little princess is a shockingly powerful and mature scene in a cartoon movie that has the gumption to aim its animation for adults.
I’ll say no more to avoid spoilers, except that I immediately went home and told my wife and three teenage daughters that I am buying them tickets to go see “Brave” at the next available opportunity.
To complete my worldview review, I’ll point out the film has several major morals, a bit of overkill, to be fair, but all were overshadowed by the story itself.
First, the film does have some unfortunately feminist slant, with the men portrayed as buffoonish boys and the ladies with wisdom and a firm hand. It’s meant for humor, but it would be a fair criticism to complain that it undermines the biblical image of manhood and marriage.
Second, the film also shoehorns in an eye-rolling speech about the younger generation being able to choose their own fate, which, frankly, smacks of sophomoric pride and undermines the biblical exhortation to honor the wisdom of elders.
Third, the film ends with some fortune-cookie philosophic blather about fate: “Our fate lies within us; you and I have to be brave enough to see it.” Nice try, but the tale didn’t really tell that story, and it’s a weak attempt at moralizing, anyway.
Now, some have said the movie is anti-marriage, but I disagree. The girl (she looks all of 14 years old) is railing against betrothal of a minor by arbitrary means, not marriage itself, and insists only she’s not ready to be married.
Finally, and most significantly by far, is the real power of the film, the lesson that overshadows all the other feeble attempts at moralizing – the story itself.
It’s the story of a girl who sees only her mother’s imperfections and a mother who sees only the same in her daughter, until they come face-to-face with losing one another.
“You’re a beast!” the daughter screams at her mother. “I’d rather die than be like you!”
But such words, such prideful little words, tear the bond between them.
“Oh, no! What have I done?” the mother moans, when she sees how her pride drove her daughter away.
“One act of selfishness can change a kingdom,” the movie warns, and both mother and daughter come to see how their selfishness has destroyed their family.
“There’s no one to blame but me,” says the princess in the end, after a whole movie of blaming everyone else but. “I need to mend our bond.”
“You’ve always been there for me. You never gave up on me,” she weeps over her mother’s last moments. “I just want you back. I want you back, Mommy.”
Yeah, I’ll be sending a box of tissues along with my wife and daughters when they go see “Brave.”
I recommend you take your own, too.
“Brave” contains neither profanity nor obscenity.
The film, rated PG – not G – has some sexuality, including flirting between husband and wife, a big-bosomed gal displaying ample cleavage and a bunch of shirtless guys. There’s also a surprising scene where the guys must remove their kilts to make a rope, and we see the guys’ naked behinds go walking by. Similarly, three naked little boys go running across the screen, all seen from behind. One guy “moons” his peers to the line “Feast your eyes,” but the audience isn’t “treated” to the view. Finally, there is a scene where a bear cub dives into the big-bosomed gal’s cleavage to retrieve something.
There is some pretty intense violence in the movie, particularly from a demon-like bear that seemingly can’t be killed. It’s frightening, very frightening for small children. There’s also warring Scottish clansmen who punch,
fight, clobber and toss and swing all sorts of weapons at one another. Some, especially children, will find a scene where the father attempts to kill the mother (who is disguised) particularly disturbing.
The film contains several magical and occult elements, including, but not limited to, discussions of “fate” and “destiny,” unidentified ancient symbols, Stonehenge-like monoliths and sacred places, a witch who mixes things in her cauldron, magic spells and some mystical will-o’-the-wisps that “lead you to your destiny,” a recurring theme in the movie.