- Title: Brave
- IMDB: link
It’s taken Pixar nearly two decades, and a dozen films, for the animation studio to give us their first attempt at a feature film centered around a female character. Merida (Kelly Macdonald), the fiery tomboyish Scottish princess certainly fits into Disney’s Princess franchise, but Pixar one-ups the house that Mickey built by giving us a story centered around a troubled, but loving, mother-daughter relationship (something Disney hasn’t been able to achieve in far longer than two decades).
Although I think Brave has a little too much of an American sensibility for an old world fairy tale (another first for Pixar), the film is gorgeous to behold. The story of a young girl attempting to change her fate may not rank near the top of Pixar’s best, but it’s definitely worth a long look and should find quite fanbase in both young and older female viewers who have been waiting patiently for the studio to deliver a character like Merida.
The story is pretty straightforward. Merida, who would rather be practicing archery and trading hunting stories with her father (Billy Connolly) than learning the proper role of a princess from her mother (Emma Thompson), finds her world crashing down when the King and Queen inform their daughter of her impending marriage. As one might expect, the independent young woman doesn’t take the news all that well.
The fragile truce which keeps the four clans aligned calls for a competition of skill and a champion, and suitor, for Merida to wed. Unwilling to accept her fate, the princess does everything she can which includes entering the contest herself (putting all the princelings to shame) and even enlisting the help of a witch (Julie Walters) to cast a spell to change the princess’ fate.
I won’t go into more detail, as the marketing has done a good job keeping the film’s twists from moviegoers. As you might expect, the spell backfires and Merida is forced to scramble to try and undo her mistake, leading to a better understanding with her mother, and a valuable lesson. It’s a rather straightforward fairy tale, although it does lack a central villain (unless you count to vicious bear Mor’du who is only periphereally tied to the main story).
Brave isn’t without it’s flaws, including a final act that drags out the story even after both the Queen and Merida have learned to appreciate each other’s perspective and put their pride aside. The last 15 minutes in many ways feel needless (as well as rushed and not as well thought-out as I’d like) as the film provides the all-important mother/daughter moment only then to give us a 10-minute action sequence that only that only delays the inevitability of the necessary final scene.
For a Pixar film Brave didn’t resonant emotionally with me as much as I have come to expect from the studio. I’ll admit, I wasn’t Pixar’s target audience for this one. I’m certainly glad they’ve made a film for mothers to take their young daughters, and I thought the humor of the film worked very well (especially the three young rambunctious princes, and an etiquette-conscious bear).
Pixar certainly tells the well-worn tale of mothers and daughters who don’t get along until they’re forced into an uncomfortable situation better than most (this basic plot keep channels like Lifetime and Hallmark Channel running 24/7). It’s an easy recommendation to make, and definitely deserves to be seen, but I’d slot it closer to Ratatouille or A Bug’s Life than Toy Story 3 in terms of ranking Brave among the studio’s previous movies.