While Cars 2 was enjoyable enough those two movies about anthropomorphic automobiles are in the bottom tier of Pixar pictures for me. So when preview clips for the next Pixar flick gave us glimpses of an unruly red haired lass with bow and arrow and the title of Brave, my anticipation level kicked up a notch.
And Brave is aptly titled.
For what could be a cliched love story about a young Scottish Princess – Merida, with the aforementioned impressive thickly curled, untamed, and long red hair – meeting an unlikely suitor – albeit a handsome one – with initial hostility: only to have the two of them fall in love by the end of the story; never happens.
In fact there is nary a candidate suitor in sight anywhere in the film. The three potential candidates – each the prince of their clan – have exaggerated character designs which make it readily obvious that none of them will end up winning the princess’s hand.
The animation and design of medieval Scotland is expectedly Pixar glorious. And it still takes one’s breathe away. The landscape is appropriately rocky, woodsy, pocketed with hilly glens, and Scottish rugged – strewn with castle ruins, ancient Stonehenge like structures and even a witch’s lair.
Brave is peopled with characters designed with exaggerated features. Only Merida and her mother – Elinor – are presented in a form approaching normal human proportions. Fittingly so, as Brave is all about the relationship between the two of them.
The only area Brave falters in is that only Merida and Elinor come across as fully realized characters. All the rest of the cast never rise above their cartoonish proportions. Not necessarily a bad thing but those high bars that Pixar has placed upon itself are not meet nor exceeded in this outing.
Elinor – voiced by Emma Thompson, wants her daughter, Princess Merida – voiced by Kelly MacDonald, to be the perfect princess. But Merida is no princess. She is tomboy through and through. Bow in hand and shooting arrows while on horseback is the ultimate for Merida. Which clashes with Elinor’s plans for Merida of having her act prim and proper like a princess. Everything that Elinor does for her daughter she does out of love and the desire to give her daughter a better life. Merida, of course, sees it as the total opposite. Neither is able to see the other’s viewpoint.
This is the central premise of the movie. The clash of the young and the old. The blind adherence to doing things in a certain way just because that is the way things have always been done.
This conflict runs so deep that Merida angrily and foolishly invokes the aid of a witch to change her mother’s mind. What Merida thinks is a solution to her problems instead leads to the return of an ancient curse dealing with bears that lands on Elinor. It is their joint journey to reverse this curse that brings mother and daughter back together.
And that journey makes for all the fun things Pixar does with the rest of the characters such as Merida’s father and her triplet little brothers that will tickle a family’s funnybone. Throw in some great Scottish voice casting from the likes of Billy Connolly, Craig Ferguson, Julie Walters, and Robbie Coltrane and you have a hoot of a fun film.
Have no fear, John Ratzenberger keeps his Pixar streak alive here too.
The short before Brave is La Luna and it’s theme of family bonds is a very apt lead in. Instead of mother/daughter bonds this is a muti-generational tale between grandfather, father and son. What appears to be a fishing trip outing turns into a custodial comedy done against a lyrical tale of lunar luminosity. Wonderful.
This is a family fun for families and like most Pixar films there is something here for every member of the family.
Go. See. Enjoy it with your family.