From Disney and Pixar comes Brave starring the voice talents of Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, and Emma Thompson. Is this a fantastic addition in the long line of Disney animated tradition, or is it as terrible as haggis?
Princess Merida is the eldest child to King Fergus and Queen Elinor of the Scottish kingdom of DunBroch. She has three younger triplet brothers named Hamish, Hubert, and Harris. All day long she spends countless hours with her mother training on the proper ways to be a lady and a princess. Merida, being the rebellious young woman that she is, would rather ride her stallion, Angus, in the glen and practice her archery. She prefers sword fighting and hunting, to sewing and corset wearing. These are all traits she inherited from her father, whose main goal in life is to kill the black bear who took his leg. Knowing how important tradition is, Queen Elinor does her hardest to break Merida of her rambunctious ways.
The time has come in Merida’s life when the leaders of the fellow clans offer their first born sons to the King for her hand in marriage. This is a tradition long held to keep peace in Scotland. Lords MacGuffin, Dingwall, and MacIntosh arrive and present their sons to the unimpressed Merida. The young men must compete in an athletic challenge. Whichever first born wins, gets to marry the Princess. One stipulation is that Merida gets to choose the event. She picks archery and decides to compete herself as the rightful first born to decide her own destiny. This infuriates Queen Elinor and she argues with Merida. The two can’t understand why they just won’t listen to each other.
Upset from the argument, Merida hops on Angus and rides far away from the kingdom. Certain events happen and Merida makes a reckless decision that leads to her family being cursed. Can Merida save her family from this unexpected danger and be brave enough to accept her mistakes?
Brave is a sophisticated and gorgeous movie that is a bit darker in tone than any of the previously released Pixar films to date. It is also a first for Pixar to have one of their movies take place in a fairy tale setting of 10th century Scotland. The best way to describe Brave is a combination of How to Train Your Dragon mixed with Freaky Friday and a dash of Braveheart. I really felt after leaving the movie that it’s the female version of How to Train Your Dragon. Both movies have a plot that revolves around the main character being a bit of a rebel to their overbearing parent who is too blinded by tradition to remember what it was like to be a teenager. The only problem with this is that I felt Brave was very much geared to a Mother/Daughter audience, whereas Dragon was more universal. I’m am not saying Brave had an estrogen infused story, but I feel the woman and girls will appreciate it more than the men and boys. There is enough fighting and weapons for the boys, but girls will just “get it” better. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because in a market flooded with super heroes and spacemen, girls can finally have a film they can call their own. As a father of three daughters, I dread the day they become teenagers, but I look at Merida as a strong role model for them. She is smart, independent, and, pardon the term, brave. Unlike other Disney princesses like Snow White and Cinderella who are so dependent on a Prince to make them happy, Merida would rather be in charge of her own fate and destiny. This, I feel, speaks highly to the young female audience. For the males who feel left out, Pixar has a short animated movie at the beginning of the film to cater to them. I don’t want to say what the title is, so as not to give anything away, but it is an adorable tale involving a boy, his father, and his grandfather.
Scotland is perfectly represented in computer form. It’s hard to believe that each stone, every blade of grass, and every hair on Merida’s head has to be meticulously animated. Everything about the film looked gorgeous. With every movie that Pixar produces, you can really tell that their attention to detail as well as their software gets better and better. One thing I really didn’t notice was the difference 3D made for the film. While it added depth, this was not a movie that had a lot of 3D gags coming at you off the screen. I would say it’s a matter of preference.
Kelly MacDonald is the voice of Merida. It was great that the filmmakers chose an actual Scottish actress rather than have someone fake the accent. It adds authenticity to the performance rather than the cartoony and slightly offensive accents of Mike Myers from Austin Powers. Billy Connolly portrays King Fergus who is complimented by Emma Thompson as Queen Elinor. Rounding out the rest of the main cast from Great Britain are Craig Ferguson as Lord MacIntosh, Robbie Coltrane as Lord Dingwall, and Kevin McKidd and Lord MacGuffin. The only thing missing would have been Gerard Butler, but he already played the king in an animated movie. You’ll be happy to hear that John Ratzenberger keeps his streak alive, but is iconic voice is so well hidden that I couldn’t tell who it was.
With 2010′s Tangled and now Brave, I have really been happy with the amazingly positive role models Disney and Pixar have been creating for little girls. One thing Brave doesn’t have is any musical numbers. This is more of a serious story about how a foolish choice can impact ones family. It also speaks soundly on the importance of parents and children to listen to each other. I would also like to emphasize that even though the movie is rated PG, there may be some scenes that are scary for younger audiences. Several children in my theater were noticeably upset and crying at a couple of the scary segments. With that being said, I personally think the perfect target audience is mothers taking their teenage daughters for an afternoon of bonding. This movie might spark some fantastic conversations on the ride home and even warrant a hug or two out of appreciation for each other.
In Theaters: June 22, 2012
Runtime: 95 Minutes
Rating: PG (for some scary action and rude humor)
Director: Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman
Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, John Ratzenberger
Genre: Animated, Action/Adventure, Comedy
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Official Site: http://disney.com/Brave
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