Don’t you hate it when your bratty kid won’t listen to you and then they sneak off and consult a witch who gives them a curse that turns you into a bear – just to shut you up? That’s the premise of the very fun and entertaining new Pixar animated film, Brave, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea to give kids these kinds of ideas. On the plus side, I think the bears in this movie are going to scare the berries out of most children – so I guess it all evens out.
Brave is the summer tent pole animated film for Disney/Pixar Productions and this is the first time that a Pixar movie has had a female protagonist (that is, unless there is something about WALL-E that the studio didn’t tell us.) This is also Pixar’s first period piece, taking place in the highlands of Scotland during the tenth-century.
The story is a new fairy-tale about the free-spirited and strong-willed young Princess Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald), who has reached the age when her parents must betroth her to the son of one of the neighboring kings. The princes must compete in a Scottish highland archery game in order to win the hand of Merida, but the young woman joins the competition and bests them all, declaring she will choose her own path.
This insolence angers her mother, Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson); and her father, King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly), must try to keep the peace with the neighboring kingdoms which feel cheated out of their prize. Princess Merida runs off, chasing will-o’-the-wisps that lead her to a witch’s cabin where she obtains a curse that will quiet her mother.
Merida gives her mother the curse, in the form of a not-so-tasty pastry, and the Queen subsequently turns into a bear, who at first still has the woman’s faculties, but is slowing turning into a dangerous and full-fledged beast. The Princess only has a short amount of time to undo the damage she has caused and save the queen and her father’s kingdom from disaster.
All joking aside, I know this is just a cartoon, but I felt it was a stretch that the Princess would actually allow her mother to eat anything given to her by a witch. If this is the case, no wonder the parents are so eager to get this girl married and out of their hair. Between the young girl’s bothersome behavior and her younger brothers’ annoying antics (she has triplet brothers), it’s a wonder Mom & Dad didn’t voluntarily elect to become bears themselves, just so they could eat their young.
Kids trying to curse their parents aside, Brave is still an immensely entertaining film, with wonderful Pixar digital animation that just gets better with every new movie. It was helmed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman and is Pixar’s first feature co-directed by a woman. You can certainly feel a woman’s touch on this feature as the mother/daughter interaction rings true throughout the film (except maybe the cursed pastry part.)
It’s great to see a film like Brave, with a strong female heroine and someone for little girls to look up to. There are a lot of laughs in this movie, some exciting action sequences and a few touching moments as well. But while this movie is certainly worth seeing, compared to the rest of the Pixar catalog, this is not one of their strongest efforts. Families with very small children should also take note that there are some intense and scary sequences that are very likely to frighten your kids.
As a pre-feature treat, Brave also showcases an Oscar-nominated, animated short film called La Luna, about a clean-up crew on the moon. It is an original, sweet and very fun little film that is a perfect set-up for the movie that follows.
A note on 3D – The screening I saw of Brave suffered from a very dark picture, especially in the night sequences, that rendered the elaborate details of the animation almost undiscernable. This is the same problem with almost any 3D film and it is a shame that the presentation takes away from the hard work the filmmakers put into this movie. My strong advice is to opt for the 2D version or make sure your theatre manager knows you are displeased if the picture is too dark.