Over the past “blah blah” years, Pixar “blah blah domination blah”. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like you don’t know what Pixar has done over the past decade, and the quality of their movies. Let’s just say that every year, the animated film that receives the most attention – pre or post release – belongs to Pixar. And this year is no different, with the fairytale Brave hitting theaters with the company’s first central heroine. While many people have claimed that it doesn’t live up to the company’s name, don’t let them fool you.
The movie kicks off by establishing the central family in the story, the royal family of the Scottish kingdom of DunBroch. King Fergus, Queen Elinor, and their daughter Merida. Although she’s very young, King Fergus presents young Merida with her first bow, much to the chagrin of Queen Elinor. Eventually a stray bow leads Merida into the path of a gigantic bear. Fergus manages to fight the bear off, but not before the bear steals one of the King’s legs. Fast forward to Merida’s later teens, and we find that her mom has been quite strict over the years, raising her to be a proper lady and future Queen. This reaches a boiling point when the family invites the other three clans of the land to compete for Merida’s hand in marriage, which doesn’t exactly settle well with the rebellious Princess, leading her to “fight for my own hand”.
What follows is where the story goes awry, and where the movie loses most of its detractors. And while that’s understandable, I still don’t it’s fair to judge the entire movie based off of it. You get hints that there were several writers telling the tale, some of which were never involved with the final cut, but ultimately the story’s message still manages to comes across. It does that by building a strong central character that is fiery, stubborn, and a bit of a brat. It was only a matter of time before Pixar dived into the Princess well. They’ve had the likes of Dory, Eve, Elastigirl, and Jesse, but never a heroine as the focus of the story, and the easiest way down that path is to go the Princess route. Also of note are Merida’s three younger brothers, who provide much of the comedic relief during the film.
What helps give this movie so much life is the wonderful production that went into this movie. As you’ve probably witnessed in the trailers, this is a gorgeous movie to look at, especially when Merida goes off on one of her adventures. Even Merida’s tangling locks had their own software program. The soundtrack and score were beautiful as well, with three of the songs being completely original for the movie, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two of them being nominated for an Oscar, depending on how many total songs are nominated. I had the opportunity of watching this in 3-D, and it wasn’t on the level of Hugo or Avatar, it gave the film a sense of great depth that helped paint an even more beautiful canvas. And to top of it, they managed to bring in the perfect actors to voice the characters, including Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters.
Overall, the magic that is created through the positives strongly outweighs whatever weaknesses manifest because of the storyline. The movie is beautiful, has strong characters, and even delivers an emotional punch a time or two, especially a touching moment at the end that will melt your heart. This is a terrific movie for mothers and daughters to watch together, as this relationship is probably the central theme to the movie, even if the trailers lead you to believe that its all about changing your fate. If anything, it’s more about understanding fate and controlling it with the help of others.
Notes: Rated PG for some scary action and rude humor; 100 minutes