Brave – Review

Director(s): Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson
Released: Aug 3, 2012

Click Here for Brave official trailer

Now sure, this is a little late in the game. After all, Brave has been out for nearly a month at this stage, and most people have made up their minds about the film. The sole purpose of this review is simply to banish any negativity you have heard associated with the film and to urge you to go see it in case you haven’t. Go. Go now! Och aye the noo!

The Plot:
In ancient times, in the Scottish highlands, kings, queens and lords reign over the lands and waters. Princess Merida, of the DunBroch clan, is being prepared to follow tradition and marry the first-born of one of the other clans. Unhappy with her fate, she attempts to change it, much to the displeasure of her mother, Queen Elinor. Enter witches, bears and amazingly well animated red hair.

The weight of expectation can be an awful curse, and no studio knows this as well as Pixar. Knocking out one masterpiece after another, they appear to be an unstoppable behemoth that can do no wrong (excluding Cars 2, which most people seem to conveniently be able to forget). They were given the unenviable task to round off the Toy Story franchise with a third film. Threequels almost never live up to their expectations, but Pixar not only delivered, they far surpassed their previous films with a staggeringly epic conclusion.

Now, it seems quite unfortunate that Brave is being considered their first real slip-up. While generally regarded as a decent film, what most people seem to take away from it is the fact that it isn’t infused with the same originality that made their previous films so memorable. Reverting back to the princess’ story formula that Disney is so well-known for, it has been criticized for lacking in depth and creativity. Let’s not forget, after a number of disappointing entries, Disney themselves reverted back to the princess story formula with The Princess and the Frog and Tangled. Because of an underwhelming track record in recent years, both of these films were received with particularly high praise.

Brave is more original and every bit as good as Tangled, if not better. Yes, in the shadow of Wall-e, Toy Story 3 and  Up , it is bound to be a minor step down, but do not let that get in the way of enjoying a truly excellent film!

The delightfully frizzy-haired Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is bound to be an instant hit with young girls everywhere. She is typically strong-willed and free-spirited, as you might expect, but the restrictions forced upon her by her mother (Emma Thompson) make her easily sympathetic and relatable. It is a story that we’ve heard before, but with such an achingly lovable lead character, it is difficult not to get swept up and enjoy her adventure. Also, the first truly memorable ginger princess, that’s certainly worth a mention!

The main focus of the film is the relationship between Merida and her mother, and the bond that they share is as troubled as it is sacred. It never ceases to amaze how well Pixar are able to infuse their CGI creations with such powerful emotions. The events that unfold in the film cut Merida and Elinor away from the other clans, changing them from Queen and Princess to Mother and Daughter. The deep exploration of how they feel about one another is predictable, true, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

It makes a nice change from the usual father and daughter relationship that is so often explored in Disney films. Merida’s father, Fergus (Billy Connolly) is a comedic character more than anything, but his bond with Merida is a nice contrast to Elinor’s. When you have a movie involving Scotland or the Scottish race, it just doesn’t make sense not to include Billy Connolly. With such a distinctive voice, he is one of the more memorable characters and gets some good laughs in with his rowdy yet warm nature. He interacts well with just about everyone, particularly Elinor. An early heart-to-heart talk gets a great belly laugh and also functions to establish the finer points of his character.

Other characters exist almost for the sole purpose of comedy. The royal triplets, Harris, Hubert and Hamish don’t really progress the plot, but they add that playfulness that is essential for every Pixar movie. Kids will adore these red-haired bringers of havoc and the way they terrorize the help while stealing from the royal kitchens. Other standouts include the other clan members sons, each bringing their own brand of laughs to the table. Young Macintosh is ridiculously vain, Young Dingwall is a passive moron and the wonderfully named Young MacGuffin is a nervous and incomprehensible giant.

The animation for the film is as beautiful as a summer’s day, with Merida’s wild hair being the most obvious standout. An early scene sees Merida travelling across the lush Scottish highlands on horseback, practicing her archery. Accompanied by a stunningly uplifting soundtrack, performed by the very talented Julie Fowlis,  this sets the tone for the film to come. It dares you not to get swept up in the adventure, and it is very difficult to resist such an invitation.

Unlike previous Pixar entries, the tale of Brave is a relatively simple one. It abandons intelligent commentary in favor of crowd pleasing scenes and a traditional story. This is somewhat unfortunate, when you consider how well previous films balanced both qualities. However, with such an endearing protagonist and powerful emotion running through it (a staple of Pixar films), it is extremely difficult not to fall in love with this interpretation of the classic princess fairy tale.

Rating: 8/10

There comes a day when I don’t have to be a Princess. No rules, no expectations. A day where anything can happen. A day where I can change my fate” – Merida

Shamelessly Awful Stuff:

  • On the day I saw this, Katy Perry’s 3D movie had just wrapped up. She had special pink and baby blue 3D glasses for her film. We had the option of buying a regular pair, or getting these for free. Yeah, we looked super badass wearing these bad boys:

  • Brave is preceded by a Pixar short called La Luna, featuring a family of sweepers that clean up the moon to make it into a crescent moon once a month. So for all the naysayers thinking that Pixar are beginning to lack in originality, pshaw.
  • Brave is the 13th Pixar film to be released and its original title was to be The Bear and the Bow.
  • Brenda Chapman was forced to leave the project, due to creative differences. One significant difference between her vision and the finished project is that originally 80% of Brave was to take place in snow.
  • The name Macintosh is a nod to Steve Jobs, whom the film is dedicated to.
  • The Pizza planet truck, which features in every Pixar movie, can be seen in the witches cottage.
  • Merida has 1500 strands of hair curls rendered.
  • On the day I went to see this, I saw someone decked out in a full Merida get-up, bow and everything! Anime conventions, you gotta love ’em!

This film is kind of like:

  • A Knights Tale, if it was set in Scotland, had nothing to do with knights and if Heath Ledger was a girl


  • Those adventures you had in open fields when you were around 6

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Great review, even though I disagree.

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