Brave Review – Another Sharp Arrow in Pixar’s Quiver

If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?

That is the question posed by Princess Merida, Brave’s teenage heroine – and it resonates throughout the film, from beginning to end.

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Feisty princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) has a typical love-hate relationship with her mother, the refined Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), that many daughters will identify with. Merida’s relationship with her father King Fergus (Billy Connolly) is more playful and warm – and much to Queen Elinor’s chagrine, he introduces the young Merida to archery (apparently a sport not befitting a future queen). While Merida doesn’t quite take to archery like a fish to water, it isn’t long before she’s mastered the game.

Queen Elinor invites potentional suitors to vie for teenage Merida’s hand in marriage. Merida is an unwilling participant in having a man determined for her, and chooses archery for the competition, so that she may (unknowingly to the queen) attempt to win her own hand. There is a breathtaking, defining moment during the competiion that Jeff and I both wish had not been shown in the movie trailers, as it lessened the impact it should have had.

Princess Merida soon makes a crucial, selfish decision which takes the story in a different direction than I expected. It is almost like Brave is two movies – one before bears, and one after bears (that is about all I can say). The first portion of the film has a more realistic bent to it – many of the events could happen in real life, though not likely. The tone is also much lighter. Once it changes direction, Brave is a dark fairy tale, with an intensity that helped earn the movie it’s PG rating (and it likely will be scary in a few places for very young viewers). But along with the darkness is a lot of lighthearted humor woven throughout. I laughed often, and even shed a few tears at the end.

Brave is a fast paced movie, one that I think would have benefitted from additional character development – including for the witch and the adorable, mischievous triplets (Harris, Hubert and Hamish). And while not disappointed, I was surprised that Merida’s horse Angus didn't have the human traits and emotions that one often finds in animated films.

A series of bare bottoms adds to the PG rating. Bears and bare bottoms = PG.

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Brave is set in the gorgeous and lush Scottish Highlands, with the animation looking nearly as real as visiting the country itself (Scotland is probably the most naturally beautiful country I've had the pleasure to visit). 

Stay through the credits for an extra scene, and arrive early enough to see the wonderful short La Luna (along with movie trailers that include Monsters University and Wreck-it-Ralph).

I didn't find the film to be as strong emotionally as UP or Toy Story 2 (the song "When She Loved Me" brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it), but Brave is another sharp arrow in Pixar's quiver.

Grade: B