Set in the lush Highlands of tenth century Scotland, Brave is Pixar's newest animated production, featuring breathtaking animations, a strong female lead and a heartwarming tale.
A Change of Fate
Throughout her life, Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) has been prepared by her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), to bear the royal responsibility as a princess. Much to the Queen's dismay, however, Merida takes no interest in dressing up or learning table manners. Fiery and headstrong like her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), Merida would rather shoot arrows, ride her horse fast, or climb mountains to get a drink from the waterfall.
One day, as tradition dictates, the three major clans of the land arrive to present their sons as suitors for the princess. Merida, naturally resistant to the idea of getting married without her consent, has a falling out with the Queen and runs away.
During her escape, Merida encounters will-o'-the-wisp, small, fairy-like creatures believed to be able to lead people to their fate. She follows them into the forest, where she meets an eccentric old witch (Julie Walters) with a penchant for woodcrafts and bears.
Determined to get out of her marriage arrangements, Merida strikes a deal with the witch to conjur a spell that will change her mother and ultimately, her fate. Her wish inadvertently turns ill-fated and Merida is forced to find the true meaning of bravery as she tries to undo the witch's spell for the sake of her kingdom and more importantly, her family.
Parents Need to Know
Brave is a fairly safe movie that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. However, parents should be warned that younger children may find some scenes scary/intense. There are several scenes involving realistic-looking bears attacking the characters and I have to (rather shamefully) admit that I jumped in my seat a few times. Some fighting/brawling scenes involving weapons are also present, mostly between the Scotsmen who fight amongst themselves.
There is, surprisingly, no romance for the main character. There are jokes about men not wearing anything underneath their kilts and there are quick scenes where the naked animated rear ends of adult men and young children are briefly exposed.
Things I Like
First, I have to say that the movie is gorgeous. With Pixar, visual detail is always their strong point, but Brave takes it to another level. Merida's fiery red mane is perhaps the most striking as it brings great contrast to the sea of blues and greens. The curls look so realistic swaying with her movements.
The Highlands are also rendered so beautiful. When the camera pulls back to show the green fields with the castle atop the hill, I feel like it came straight from a scene in The Lord of the Rings. There's also the rich and detailed forest, the misty mountains, the majestic waterfall and the eerily beautiful will-o'-the-wisp. Really, if you only need one reason to watch Brave, then here you go: it is the most beautiful movie Pixar has ever made.
At the heart of the story, Brave is a lovely tale of a mother-daughter relationship. Merida is the rebellious teen who clashes with her conventional mother, and while they may disagree ocassionally, they do love each other. While this sounds cliché, it is something that many moms and daughters can relate to.
When I first saw the trailers, I thought that the movie was going to be all about magic and adventures, but there is more to Brave than that. It's a coming-of-age sort of story, full of heart and positive messages: learn to listen, trust in people and cherish your family.
The characters in Brave are charming and loveable. The female leads, however, definitely stand out. Merida is the admirable heroine, both headstrong and independent, not afraid to speak her mind, but at the same time naive and still has a lot to learn. Queen Elinor is wise and loving with a great sense of duty about her. She is beautifully complex, just like a real life mother.
The other characters, while not portrayed as prominently as Merida and Queen Elinor, add liveliness to the movie. King Fergus, together with Merida's devillish triplet brothers, serves mostly as comedic relief, but they too have depth beyond their carefree antics.
Brave is a beautiful movie with memorable characters and heartwarming story. It is lighthearted, fun and action-filled, so there is something for the whole family. Moms and daughters would bond over this movie, seeing as Brave honors the relationship so well. I walked out of the theatre feeling all warm inside and wanting to hug my Mom.
Some people I know have expressed their disappointment that Brave falls a little short of Pixar's standards, but seeing as those standards are pretty high, Brave still makes a (highly) enjoyable movie.