Brave (A Pixar failure. I've always had difficulty explaining why I didn't think it was that great, but a rewatch helps me clarify the issues with the movie. The animation is fantastic, and the hair leaves me stunned; the soundtrack is as good as any Pixar's film; the Scottish-kitsch setting is fun and colorful, and the slapstick good; and the premise is the instantly-recognizable and classic explore/exploit conflict of a non-adult trying to follow their own dreams to the neglect of their responsibilities/societal role which causes conflict with their parents, which thesis-antithesis one expects to ultimately resolve in a synthesis in which the child learns important lessons while succeeding in striking out on their own.
It's great, bordering on flawless, right up until the queen turns into a bear. The whole thing falls apart after that. Leaving aside the idiot-ball part where the witch makes an incomprehensible mistake and the protagonist abets it by not explaining anything or asking any questions, the problem is that the mom is 100% right and the daughter 100% wrong. Typically, with this kind of bildungsroman/children's-movie, the junior protagonist has some sort of genuine talent or dream they want to follow, and the senior antagonists are not wrong about it being a risk compared to conventional paths but are wrong about the opportunity cost or probability of success; both have valid points. But the protagonist has no particular dream or talent and as the father so cruelly but accurately parodies her, wants nothing more than to be a wastrel who spends her time running around with her hair down and "firing arrows into the sunset". It's hard to see what she could possibly mean by "changing her fate" when apparently this means nothing more than "ensure my life of hedonism continues unchanged by any kind of work or responsibility", and when her mother talks about her responsibilities and the need to be a princess and the importance of the princess/queen's role as a peace-weaver (to borrow the excellent Anglo-Saxon term), the mother is talking sense. This failure to establish any kind of validity to the protagonist's views or desires undercuts all the events; how are we supposed to sympathize with her or see any merit to her thesis when the plot and world-building so one-sidedly establishes her as a thoughtless little chit whose selfishness directly leads to civil war? The only time the movie really gestures towards trying to create any case for her is when she exhibits her mad warrior-princess skills by... shooting some salmon. Which can be caught bare-handed because they're jumping out of the water. Wow, so impressive. Much thesis, such conflict. So, having entirely failed at constructing a meaningful narrative and undercutting any thoughtful viewer's suspension of disbelief & absorption, Brave continues to the synthesis where the protagonist learns her lesson from observing the imminent civil war and the parallel legend of the ancient kingdom falling to internal strife & selfishness and in the film's climax, femininely weaves peace by not shooting people with her bow but by successfully delivering a speech of unity as her mother watches. Some aspects are unsatisfying (the declarations of free love come out of nowhere, but I suppose we couldn't actually expect any endorsement of arranged marriages in a Hollywood movie, no matter how historically justifiable or necessary or demanded by the plot) but nevertheless, the climax is fairly satisfying in delivering synthesis. The End?
Psyche! Did you think the movie ended there simply because that is the only sane place to end the movie? No, the movie actually goes on another half hour. So once the civil war has ended, we are treated to a truly bizarre continuation of the movie where the mother (still a bear despite the breach having been mended!) is chased around the castle and hunted down to the ancient mystical ruins and a throwaway symbol from earlier, a torn tapestry, suddenly assumes central position because of a lame pun, and the movie drags it out with some more action scenes until mother and daughter are tearfully reunited (although it's unclear what exactly they still have to bond over, since the daughter has realized her mistake & made amends already, and the mother was never estranged in the first place). Then thankfully, the movie finally ends. This extension of the story is thoroughly baffling; it is as if Return of the Jedi didn't end with the Darth Vader's death but instead Luke escapes the Death Star and spends the next 20 minutes engaging in speeder bike chases on the moon of Endor again. If it was done deliberately as a subversion or parody, like the genre of joke where the joke is the comedian deliberately stretching out a joke far too long and making everyone uncomfortable, then it would make sense albeit is hard to pull off well. But here it seems like the director just didn't get it, just didn't understand the basic narrative arc or rhythm of the movie. The movie would be so much better if it effectively ended after the hall speech and they had left the rest on the cutting-room floor - but they kept it all.
If Brave's flaw had just been the first one, one could try to gloss over or ignore it, similar to Frozen's problems; perhaps it was just too hard to write a good set of grievances for the protagonist or fit it in the running time they had. But the second problem is entirely unforced and has no such excuse as it represents a not inconsiderable chunk of the movie & resources. It reminded me not a little of (the much better) Spirited Away, where there is such a large shift towards the end that it leaves viewers a little confused, and which is likely due to major cuts being made during development; unsurprisingly, it turns out that the original director, Brenda Chapman, was replaced, which may explain the half-baked nature of the characters and the dramatic directorial failure of the end.)