New from Disney and Pixar, “Brave” opened in theaters nationwide June 22.
Set in medieval Scotland, the animated film is the first Pixar feature centered on a female protagonist. Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is the independent-minded daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connoly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Though her mother insists she act as a proper princess, Merida prefers horseback riding and archery to her royal duties.
In keeping with Scottish tradition, neighboring clans arrive at the family’s castle to compete in the Highland Games for Merida’s hand in marriage. Upset by the thought of betrothal, Merida seeks out a witch (Julie Walters) who provides her with a spell that will change her fate. Chaos ensues as the witch’s spell turns the Queen into a bear, and Merida begins a journey involving ancient legends and Scottish folklore. Other voice cast members include Kevin McKidd as Lord MacGuffin, Craig Ferguson as Lord Macintosh and Robbie Coltrane as Lord Dingwall.
As is to be expected from Pixar, the film’s animation is stunning and brings depth and color to the Scottish highlands. Merida’s wild red hair is particularly outstanding and adds a uniquely definable quality to her character. The incredible attention to detail is apparent throughout the film and is especially visible in the animation of Merida’s horse, Angus, as well as the film’s antagonist, Mor’du the bear.
The film’s music, primarily written and composed by Patrick Doyle, is excellent and utilizes many Scottish influences for a creative and authentic effect. The original songs performed by Scottish vocalist Julie Fowlis and British band Mumford & Sons are especially good and are sure to be considered when awards season rolls around.
The film is centered on Merida and Queen Elinor’s mother-daughter relationship. It’s refreshing to see Pixar shake things up a bit and appeal to its female audience. It delivers a nice moral of individuality and understanding — typical of what is to be expected from a Disney princess movie. Though it’s nothing unique, the underlying message is a solid foundation that is a good source of support for the rest of the action.
There is no shortage of funny and heartwarming moments throughout the film, and the humor is simple and honestly funny. Much of the comedy is provided by Merida’s young triplet brothers, who are constantly up to some sort of mischief and are sure to become a fan favorite. Queen Elinor’s time as a bear is actually one of the most enjoyable parts of the movie, and it’s quite amusing to see her character transferred into animal form.
All of the individual elements of the film are impressive. However, there seems to be little glue, if any, holding them together. The story seems to wander in a few different directions (possibly due to a change in directors during filming), and there is a great deal of background information that the filmmakers didn’t quite know how to handle. It’s difficult to describe exactly what went wrong, but the film just seems to be missing its spark.
This being said, it’s still a great movie. Unfortunately, Disney and Pixar have set the bar so high in the past that anything that doesn’t break new ground seems like a setback for them. “Brave” just isn’t destined to become another Disney classic, though it’s a good watch for mother-daughter audiences and die-hard Pixar fans. Though some moviegoers may have been a little disappointed, it’s almost certain there are many more great things to come from the Disney and Pixar powerhouse.