RATED: ★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of 5 buckets | Matinee or BluRay
Rated: PG Brief rude behavior and intense images
Release Date: June 22, 2012
Runtime: 1 hour 40 minutes
Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Writers: Mark Andrews, Steve Prucell, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi
Cast: Emma Thompson, Kelly MacDonald, Kevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane, Billy Connolly, Craig Ferguson, Julie Walters
SYNOPSIS: Young princess Merida discovers that she is to be wed as part of tradition to continue the truces between the clan. Thinking the arrangement unfair, Merida comes across an old witch who will give her a magical charm that will change her fate.
REVIEW: Disney Pixar is known for its tremendous work in kid-friendly and adult-entertaining computer generated animations. From Toy Story to Up, Pixar Animation Studios has never disappointed. This time around, for the studio's latest animation, writers/directors Mark Andrews (One Man Band), Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt), and Steve Purcell (Sam and Max), along with additional writer Irene Mecchi (The Lion King), look to add to the long line of classic animated films.In the 10th century Scottish highlands, princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald, Boardwalk Empire) grows up under the guidance of her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson, Men In Black 3), and her father King Fergus (Billy Connolly, The Hobbit: There and Back Again). Under their tutelage, she is both semi-versed in the arts of decorum and the ways of the king's court, and masterfully skilled in archery and being headstrong. Along with her three younger triplet red-headed brothers Harris, Hubert, and Hamish, she gives the help and her parents much to deal with. When three letters come to the queen, Merida is told that she is to be betrothed to a son of one of the other three clans, to be decided by a test of skill of Merida's choosing. Realizing that the sons of Lord Macintosh (Graig Ferguson, Winnie the Pooh), Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane, Arthur Christmas), and Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd, Grey's Anatomy) are not to her liking, she throws the competition, storms off to the forest, and reopens the rift between the four clans. In the forest, the mystical Will-of-the-Wisps lead Merida to an old witch's cottage where she trades a necklace for a spell that will change her fate. Unfortunately, every spell comes at a price and Merida must learn a harsh lesson before it is too late for her and those she loves.
To start, the visuals of Brave are stunning, from every leaf hanging on the trees in the Scottish Highland forest, to the cascades of waters spilling down in a waterfall from the craggy cliffs, to every strand of Princess Merida's red flowing mane of hair. Pixar Animation Studios, for the first time in twenty-five years, completely rewrote their animation computer systems in order to make all of these much more complex visuals even possible. From the surreal blues of the Will-of-the-Wisps to the soaring fly-overs of the pristine mirrored lakes, every shot is gorgeous. And in typical Pixar fashion, the directors and animators take painstaking effort to set every scene with just the right light, tone, and tempo. In one scene where Merida finds herself in the forest overnight, the weak light of the morning that wakes her is cast with the perfect pale, cold diffusion.
In all of Pixar's films, the character of Merida denotes the first of their films with a main female character. All of their films, except for maybe Up, had female love interests or supporting female characters. In Brave, though, although there is a hoard of male characters with bows, swords, and guile, they fill a noisy back saddle to Merida's story. Brave is a story of teenage angst, rebelling against parents and their wishes, and learning the harsh lessons of responsibility and making the right decisions for one's self and family. Can Merida understand the importance of tradition and duty, although it may curtail her freedom as a young woman? Will the spell that she buys from the old witch give her what she wants or will it have dire consequences that she has yet to realize?
Brave truly centers around the forgotten bonds between a mother and her daughter. As Merida comes to age, Elinor has been training her and grooming her for the role of wife to one of the princes of one of the other Scottish clans. All the time, Merida sees her mother's instructions as mindless routine that keeps her from her love of her quiver of bolts and bow. and riding through the forest at break neck speeds on her horse. All she wants is to be free. Both need to remember that there is some common ground to stand on. The question is how will either of them come to that understanding?
Brave is funny, like the Pixar films before it, but it is the first fairy tale Pixar has put to screen. Parts Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, Brave is a darker film in tone and comes with a more mature theme that may be beyond the enjoyment of the most young audience goers. Sure, Merida's brothers Harris, Hubert, and Hamish play silent mischievous roles to smiles, and the clan suitors for Merida are pretty silly, but the subject matter is more grim and sometimes more dire. In addition to the effects of the spell that Merida allows to be cast, an older spell from years ago could possibly rear its furry, fang-filled head, with dark, scary results. Parents be warned, Brave is not the nextTangled.
Brave is a fine addition to the Pixar family of films. Different from its predecessors with a strong female lead and a more mature theme, the film looks away from the kid-friendliness of talking toys or a world of talking cars, or even superheroes with a dysfunctional family dynamic. Instead, we are treated to a beautifully rendered world of centuries gone by, with the same issues that many kids and teenagers are facing today. If you are brave enough, loose that arrow and let it fly!
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