Reviewed by: Ginny Foran
“Princess defies parents’ order to marry a proper suitor and runs away” could be the tagline for Pixar’s Brave.
At first glance this Scottish fairy-tale has a less than original storyline at its center, which may be why the trailers kept it all a bit mysterious until recently. Though it feels a bit more “Disney” than Pixar’s more creative offerings like Up, Monsters or Wall-E, Brave still manages to elevate the traditional narrative and provide fun twists along the way. In this instance, Pixar opts for a contemporary exploration of teen/parent relationships (moms should bring tissues), rather then a Little Mermaid or Aladdin-style tale of forbidden love.
Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a headstrong, careless teenager, with a penchant for weapons and a distaste of formality and “princess” life. Her mother (Emma Thompson) is a refined and sophisticated woman, whose main concern is keeping her husband’s (Billy Connoly) fragile kingdom together. Naturally, conflict arises when the two don’t see eye to eye on Merida’s future and her responsibility to the family and throne.
I have to commend Pixar for delivering a fairly realistic mother/daughter dynamic, without making either look like complete buffoons. Merida is actually a much more flawed heroine than I had anticipated, but unlike many Disney characters (a la Ariel), she is compelled to deal with her flaws in order to right the wrongs caused by her choices.
Lest you think it’s all drama, never fear, Brave has all the hallmarks of its predecessors; heart warming messages of love and family, ridiculous one liners and a hilarious cast of side characters (see specifically the one that mumbles unintelligible gibberish). But what elevates Brave to a truly exceptional movie experience, are the visuals.
Of course that raises the question of whether it should be seen in 3D. I’d argue that unlike UP, this isn’t a 3D must. The imagery here is stunning for the intense colors, contrast, realism and spectacular scenery, none of which are particularly enhanced by the 3D. And if you are like many movie goers, being free of those darn glasses will make it all the more enjoyable.
In either case, the movie does succeed in keeping you utterly mesmerized with its alternating scenery of castle, forest and highland cliffs. The animators did an amazing job combining the semi-cartoon style of the characters with intensely realistic elements like the animals and mountains. As with Toy Story in its day, Brave is in a class all its own in terms of animation.
Though Brave won’t be in my top three Pixar flicks of all time, it will certainly be one of my favorites of the year, and the gorgeous panoramas alone make it well worth the price of admission!
PARENT WARNING: the 4 year old next to me spent most of the movie in tears. It’s rather intense and a tad crass in places, which might not sit well with parents of the smallest movie goers.
On a side note, the short at the beginning (La Luna) is the most whimsical and fanciful they’ve perhaps every produced!
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