Brave is the latest film from the already legendary Pixar animation factory. However it breaks from the Pixar tradition in that it is about a Princess. Princesses have been the exclusive domain of standard Disney animation, and what a history they have had. With films such as Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and the Little Mermaid, there has nary been a bad film amongst them. However they all had an extremely similar formula, with the lead princess longing for a Prince Charming as if their life was defined by finding a male to look after them. Brave breaks this mould. The feisty Merida is not seeking a husband, quite the opposite in fact; she is a strong girl, who wants to find her own place in the world.
Brave is set in the Scotland during medieval times. Merida is the firstborn daughter of King Fergus and she has three rascally brothers. As the firstborn daughter, Merida has a lot of expectations placed upon her, not the least of which is to act like a lady. Ever since she has been a child Fergus has not discouraged her love of action and archery. So much so in fact that she is now an excellent marksman. Merida's mother Elinor is dismayed by this unladylike behavior and spends much time trying to rid this tomboyish behavior out of her.
However the time has come for the firstborn sons from the other tribes to come forth and stake their claim to Meridas hand. These suitors are all inadequate though (seemingly) ranging from the idiotic through to the inept. Fortunately there has to be a challenge in order to win our fair princesses hand. Predictably Merida chooses archery to be the challenge and much to her mother's disdain embarrasses her and the suitors by winning the challenge and trying to claim her own hand in marriage.
This sets forth a terrible conflict between Merida and Elinor, culminating with Merida running off and seeking to change her destiny. She finds herself lead to the cottage of a witch/woodcarver who is far too obsessed with bears. After gaining the potion from the Witch she returns home and gives it to her mother (under the illusion that it would change her mind), but fate has a different idea and transforms Elinor into a bear, a bear which is still the Queen. This leads to a great amount of comic relief, with Elinor trying to come to terms with her new bearish existence and her wish to be as ladylike as possible.
It is in dynamic that the film finds its soul. The gradual bonding of mother and daughter is heartwarming and although the film does have a "message" it is not heavy handed and is written with a deft touch.
The voiceover work from everyone is excellent; it is refreshing to hear some genuine accents for a change rather than made up brogues. Kelly Macdonald is charming and full of spunk as Merida, while Billy Connelly is his ever entertaining self. As has become standard with films from Pixar the animation is excellent with tremendous detail in every shot, from the Scottish Highlands through to the wonderful curls in the hair of Merida and her brothers. Watching it from a technical viewpoint the achievement involved here is staggering.
The film itself is well worth watching with more than enough in it for adults as well as for children. It is entertaining with a touching story at its heart. I hope that Pixar keeps generating more original material such as this rather than sequelising those stories already told. I wholeheartedly recommend this to every lover of film, especially to those who have ever been a daughter.
The version I saw was the standard version as opposed to 3D.
Preceding the film was a wonderful short called La Luna, which in itself was worth the price of admission.
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