Here's what I didn't expect would happen when I saw Brave this summer: that I would bawl like a damn baby. This is not to say that Pixar movies haven't made me cry before — I saw Up and Finding Nemo, and the look on Sully's face at the very end of Monsters, Inc. might set me off just remembering it ... yep, there I go. But I thought I'd be impervious to Brave. Between How to Train Your Dragon and the continuing existence of Gerard Butler, I thought that Scottish stuff was all played out.
If I'm being perfectly honest, the Scottish stuff is a bit played out. Kilts, bare bums, haggis, Braveheart face-painting references ... we get it. But I didn't worry about that stuff too much because I was so engrossed by the mother-daughter stuff played out by Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson) and Princess Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald). I just didn't expect Nicole Holofcener-level psychological realism in a CG-animated kids' movie, but it's very effective and very true — and will, I hope, go completely over the heads of its juvenile target audience! (Speaking of kids: I advised a lot of my friends with young children not to see the film in theaters due to bear-related scariness. Now that it's on home video, so that it can be watched in full daylight and paused, if need be, for reassurance, it might be OK.)
Silver: As a filmmaker, Spike Lee is at his best when he’s not directing a film he wrote. Clockers, 25th Hour, and Inside Man are Spike’s best work because in these films he’s a hired gun, and has no other options but to act as a pure storyteller. His tendency to veer into self-righteousness is kept in check by his producers (Martin Scorsese on Clockers, Edward Norton on 25th Hour, and Brian Grazer on Inside Man). Sure, there are exceptions — films that he’s written and directed like He’s Got Game or even Bamboozled work because it’s evident that Spike has something personal to say and visualized how he’s going to say it, and is not just preaching. Based on the trailer, I believe Red Hook Summer to be one of the exceptions. It feels very “Spike”, with its melodramatic music, flash cuts to handheld 16mm, and shots of forlorn folks looking directly into the camera, but what intrigues me is that Red Hook Summer appears to be a coming-of-age story. It’ll be interesting to see how Spike sees “today” through the eyes of children. I have no doubt that this film will be divisive and in some way filled with controversy (Spike wouldn’t want it any other way), but this one looks like it’ll be worth the time.