Pixar's animated adventure about Merida, a Scottish princess who brings trouble and turmoil to her father's kingdom when she defies her parents' wishes to marry. To make matters even worse, Merida gets more than she bargained for with a witch's spell and must work out a way to both reverse its shape-shifting properties and make things right in her family's kingdom. Now playing in 3D nationwide. Also in 2D.
Brave won’t go down as one of the great Pixar films - it conspicuously lacks the innovative wonder of Wall-E or Up - but after the colossal misstep that was Cars 2 last year, it finds the studio back on steady, if not exactly earth-shattering ground.
For Pixar, the film’s biggest claim to some sort of “leap forward” perhaps begins and ends with Merida (Kelly McDonald), the first lead female protagonist in their catalogue. She’s one of their strongest and feistiest, a plucky, tomboyish, bow-wielding princess who’s trying to defy 10th Century Scottish traditions by refusing her parents’ wish to marry her off to one of the sons of the three lords that rule the kingdom.
A little disappointingly, while its feminist themes and emotional mother-daughter bond provide sturdy storytelling anchors, Brave is more straightforward than one would expect from Pixar, the scope of the narrative rather limited considering the epic, inherently mythic feel of its period and environment.
The body-swapping slapstick that occurs after Merida’s encounter with a witch (Julie Walters) gives the film its flashes of inspired comic genius (the brothers fooling King Fergus by using a chicken roast to produce bear silhouettes is just perfect), and on a technical level, it’s difficult to fault. The action sequences dash and glide elegantly, the radiant bounce of Merida’s crimson curls rivals Disney’s work on Rapunzel’s flowing golden locks in Tangled (which this film plays like a darker cousin of) and the bear designs manage to straddle the line between fearsome realism and cartoony anthropomorphism. It must be said that though, Brave’s proportionally exaggerated Don Martin-esque male characters aren’t my favourite things Pixar has ever done.
Strangely, nothing in Brave comes close to matching the stunningly imaginative and heart-filling opening short film La Luna.