- Movie Rating -

Brave (2012)

| June 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

Pixar’s new animated adventure Brave succeeds in many areas, but the one that is least expected is a refreshingly positive eye on parenthood.  Traditionally, Disney heroes, like Belle, Dumbo and Pinocchio have only one parent, while others like Snow White, Aladdin, Tarzan and Quasimodo have none.  Princess Merida (pronounced “Meera-da”), the heroine of Brave, not only has both a mother and a father, but has loving parents who want the best for their daughter.

What is most surprising is that the movie also allows the heroine to be strong while also being allowed to make mistakes.  At one point, she refuses to listen to her parents and it nearly costs her everything.  That’s a nice lesson in an age when most movies decree that the best way to solve a problem is to kill and destroy.

The story takes place in the ancient Scottish kingdom of DunBroch, ruled over by the spirited King Fergus (voiced by Billy Connolly), a legendary bear hunter who regales his family at the dinner table with tales of how one of the beasties ate his leg.  His feisty red-headed daughter Merida (voiced by Kelly McDonald) has spent her entire life being prepped and trained by her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) to be a proper lady, so that someday she may make a proper wife.  Merida will have none of this.  She is a tomboy who would prefer to ride through the woods, hunting with her bow and arrow.

In keeping with the age-old tradition, she is presented with three suitors from neighboring clans who compete in an archery contest to see who is fit to receive her hand.  They turn out to be dim-wits who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.  Frustrated, Merida makes a bid for her own hand.  This outrages her mother and leads to a fierce argument that sends Merida deep into the woods where she meets an ancient witch (voiced by Julie Walters) who fronts as a wood carver.  Desperate to change her mother’s mind, she asks the witch to give her a spell that will help, but it backfires and ends up transforming the queen into a creature that wouldn’t exactly sit well at her father’s table.

What follows is an adventure in which Merida must undo the spell and restore her family.  That brings mother and daughter closer than most parents and children are ever allowed to get in most Disney pictures.  I was happy to see that the film allowed for a character who was spirited and independent but I was also happy that the movie allowed for a refreshing reminder of family values and the importance of open lines of communication.

Also refreshing is that the movie is backed-up by some of the most extraordinary computer animation that I have ever seen.  The lush countryside and forests of Scotland are presented here in a palette that doesn’t simply feel like trees and grass, but a real place teeming with life.  The forest is populated by beautiful ghostly creatures called Will-o’-the-Wisps which are helpful in leading Merida to her fate.

There’s a lot of talk about fate in this movie, but in the end, the movie never knows what to do with Merida.  That’s the movie’s only stumble.  Once she has made her bid for independence, we are left to wonder what exactly she will do now.  Apparently that’s the point, she will decide her own unmarried fate and that is that.  You are free to make of that what you will.  I dunno, I found that angle a bit muddled.

Some will see that as the movie’s complete downfall.  I found it to be simply a minor oversight that I am willing to forgive.  That’s because there is so much to love in Brave, especially the comedy elements which are presented by a flock of supporting characters who seem inspired by old Looney Tunes cartoons.  Not the least of which are three devilishly mischievous triplets – Merida’s brothers – Hamish, Hubert and Harris who never speak, but provide the film’s best comic moments.  The comedy and the action are at a PG level, and the movie is probably suited to children above the age of, say, eight.

Brave isn’t perfect, but I enjoyed it a great deal more than I expected.  This is Pixar’s first fairy tale and they have done a good job.  There are no gimmicks here.  This is the first Pixar film since The Incredibles to have human beings at the center, that’s important.  No toys.  No cars.  No superheroes.  No robots.  No Bugs.  No fish.  Many may grouse about that, but I think that Brave has a positive story to tell, with a valuable family message at its center.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2012) View IMDB Filed in: Animated, Kids