Review by Paul Preston
“Brave” is being marketed as “From the people who brought you “Wall-E”, “Toy Story 3” and “Up””, they’re making specific effort to let you know that this will be aligned with only the highest pedigree of Pixar release. You won’t hear “Brave” as coming “From the folks what brung you “Cars 2””, the studio’s only stumble in thirteen movies. It’s good to know that some of Hollywood’s best filmmakers can pick themselves up and dust themselves off so quickly.
“Brave” tells the story of the Scottish Princess Merida, who has a thirst for independence from her parents, King Fergus, and Queen Elinor, who are forcing her into marriage with one of the many colorful dopes that inhabit funny, fantasy Scotland. They also want her to act more “princess-y” and be demure, and all she wants is to sword fight and run through the woods on here horse, practicing her archery.
Anyway, Merida’s desire to live her own life leads her to the woods and there’s magic in the woods! ‘Cause…isn’t there always? A witch who lives in the forest conjures up a spell that will change Queen Elinor’s attitude towards Merida conforming to the ideal concept of a princess. So she takes the spell back to the castle and…well, here’s where the whole story becomes very…Pixary, which is a good thing.
Up to now my plot description has been pretty routine. This story is the tried and true formula of Pixar’s parent company Disney – disgruntled princess who doesn’t want her suitors (Jasmine), wants more than this provincial life (Belle), under the thumb of an overbearing parent (Ariel). But take the conventional Disney princess tale and put it in the hands of the best filmmakers out there (Pixar) and the results aren’t necessarily fresh, but they’re handled very well.
But once the spell takes hold, the whole story changes, and becomes something truly original, and takes a turn not alluded to at all in the trailers. So, quick tip, do yourself a favor and don’t read or listen to any other reviews that may give away what up till now has been kept secret by the marketing campaign. I guess they figure Pixar’s first female heroine, a teen longing for freedom from tradition would be enough to get everyone to see the film, they could keep everything else secret, and that works to the film’s benefit.
Pixar has set it’s own bar so very high, that it’s a little disappointing for them to do anything that’s routine. I mean think of the plot of “Up” – has there EVER been anything made like that movie EVER? “Ratatouille”? So if it feels like you’ve seen it before, hold out until half way through when Merida invokes the spell on her parents. That’s when real danger, outlandish comedy and original action scenes develop that are nothing you’ve seen before.
There’s great voice talent on display here – Emma Thompson as the Queen, Kelly MacDonald as Merida and Billy Connolly and Craig Ferguson are easily cast as Scottish guys.
The film handles its mother-daughter relationship intelligently, it’s the core of the movie. Merida and The Queen have a challenging, complicated relationship, but Merida isn’t without flaws and doesn’t always make the best decisions, which is also a mixed bag ‘cause you want to root for her, but she’s often covering up her mistakes, yet, you have to admire her passion. And at least, here is a spoiler alert, she’s not sitting around waiting for a GUY to come and save her. At least that part seems handily updated.
Throughout, the animation is stellar, as you would come to expect. Even just Merida’s hair alone should get some special Oscar.
This one doesn’t quite hit the bullseye, but it certainly washes the taste of “Cars 2” out of your mouth.
Directed by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman & Steve Purcell
Release Date: June 22, 2012
Run Time: 93 Minutes
Distributor: Pixar Animation Studios