A young Scottish Princess called
(Kelly Macdonald) spends her days
fighting against the rules set by her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) and
wishes to be more of a free spirit, able to ride her horse, eat and wear what
she wants and most importantly practise her archery skills. A trip to a Witch
adds a further twist to the mother daughter relationship and puts both their lives
at risk. Merida
Despite being a huge Pixar fan I went into Brave with a small sense of dread. I expected, and as it turned out I was right, that this would be Pixar’s most Disney-like feature to date and that’s something that disappoints me. We already have Disney to bring us fairytales of Princesses and suitors but there are very few studios who are brave enough or mad enough to come up with the likes of Toy Story, Wall-E or Up. For me there was little to distinguish Brave from a modern Disney film along the same lines as Tangled. Despite this, Brave is still a fun film with a lot to like.
The plot follows along similar lines of a lot of modern animation in that the female character is constrained by tradition, parents, birth etc and wants something more. I like that Princesses are no longer just in a film to wear pretty dresses and get rescued by chiseled Princes but it seems to be the same every time. Strong female role models are great but it’s getting to the stage that I’m a bit fed up with seeing the same thing over and over again. Here, Medieval Princess Merida wishes to be able to choose her own destiny and enters a competition to claim her own hand in marriage. Thankfully the story then turns away from this idea somewhat as other elements come to the fore. The idea is still always there in the background and the relationship between mother and daughter is often governed by their opposing views but there was magic, wisps and bears to distract the viewer.
I thought that Pixar judged the Scottishness of the film very well and avoided too many stereotypes and exaggerations. There are plenty of kilts, bagpipes, tossing of cabers and haggis but it wasn’t overdone. The setting and landscape felt very Scottish and almost recognisable while the choice to use a largely Scottish cast made me breathe a sigh of relief. Had we been offered another Mrs. Doubtfire or Shrek impersonation I think I probably would have left. Instead the accents feel natural and suit the visuals. The animation itself is excellent as you’d expect from the world’s foremost animation studio. The helicopter style landscape shots look almost real while the characters look real enough to convince while still remaining cartoonish. One aspect of the animation that really stood out was Merida's unkempt hair. It's just a shame that the film was released in the same year that Rebekah Brooks has been so prominent in the news. The soundtrack was something that stood out for me and like the voice work, works very well with the animation.
Although it is sometimes funny, most of the laughs in the screening I was in came from children. This is probably a silly thing to point out for a children’s film but I’ve come to expect a level of adult humour in Pixar films and it was sometimes lacking here. The three young brothers provided some laughs though and were incredibly cute once they went through a particular change. The three clan leaders and their sons were also good and provided plenty to chuckle at. The young suitors appear to be closely modelled on very recognisable ideas. There is the attractive one who has all the girls’ screaming and reminded me of the Justin Beibers, at least in terms of the hysteria he created. Then there is the stereotypical idiot, of which there is usually at least one in Disney films. Finally there is the Scottish kid whose accent is so thick that no one can understand. I have to speak to Scots on the phone on a daily basis and can completely identify with him. Yesterday I had to ask a lady to repeat something about six times before I finally realised she was saying the letter O.
Overall I expect Brave will have children falling over themselves to see it again but will maybe leave some parents feeling a bit cold. The mother-daughter relationship is a highlight and is comparable to the father-son relationship in Finding Nemo, though it goes much deeper and darker here. In the end though it just didn’t feel like a Pixar film for me and largely because of that it ends up towards the bottom of their illustrious pile. If I'm honest I have to say that I preferred the short La Luna before the film to the main feature.