Movie review: Disney/Pixar’s Brave

On Sunday, 24 June 2012, Janice and I met Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. and Sara F. at the Showcase Cinema de Lux at Legacy Place in Dedham, Massachusetts, for an early matinee of Brave. We enjoyed the Disney/Pixar computer-animated fantasy.

Disney/Pixar's Brave
Wallpaper for computer-animated Scottish fantasy

Unlike many of its predecessors, Brave isn’t a retelling of a classic fairy tale or an adaptation of a popular children’s novel. The movie follows Princess Merida, a headstrong Scottish lass, as she struggles to find her destiny in a rugged land of colorful warriors and hidden magic.

While Brave is not historically accurate, I’m glad that actual Scottish and British actors were used for its voice cast. Kelli Macdonald (Gosford Park, No Country For Old Men) is an appealing Merida, and comedian Billy Connolly is her boisterous father King Fergus. Emma Thompson plays the controlling Queen Elinor, and Julie Walters is an old witch who grants Merida an ill-advised wish.

Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, and Craig Ferguson are other Scots in Brave‘s cast, and of course, Cheers and Pixar alumnus John Ratzenberger is also aurally present. Brave‘s character designs are cartoonish but manage not to be too jarring against the realistic landscapes. As an archery fan, I enjoyed the tournament scene, even if most of it had already been shown in commercials and trailers.

The script and plot are a bit more straightforward than other Disney flicks, but I appreciated the fact that the movie is somewhat less sentimental — or emotionally manipulative — than other Pixar films (see Up). Some reviews focus on Merida as a stronger young woman than past Disney princesses, but what about Mulan?

Others have noted that most of Pixar’s pics have been more boy-oriented, such as Toy Story and Cars, but Brave actually has more in common with recent movies from Dreamworks, such as How To Train Your Dragon or Kung-Fu Panda. Brave also bears a strong resemblance to Dragon Hunters and Brother Bear, but isn’t as tragic in tone as Sintel. In addition, Brave‘s Celtic knotwork and mythic medieval setting reminded me of the delightful Secret of Kells.

I was pleased to see Brave tackle mother-daughter relationships, since much folklore and more recent movies tend to focus on father-son or father-daughter ones. Merida‘s suitors and three younger brothers are also a source of some amusement.

Overall, I’d give Brave, which is rated PG for some violent scenes, three out of five stars, an 8 out of 10, or a B+. Brave might not go down as a classic, but it’s still solid family entertainment. The next movie I’ll probably see in the theater is The Amazing Spider-Man.

Speaking of animated fantasy, while I’ve recently blogged about Avatar: the Legend of Korra, I have to note that I was pleased with the action-packed first season finale to this sequel to Nickelodeon’s Avatar: the Last Airbender. The dieselpunk/fantasy setting, escalating plot, and adolescent characters all came together, and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

One thought on “Movie review: Disney/Pixar’s Brave

  1. Yeah, the previews for Ratatouille, WALL-E, an Up all lokoed less than spectacular but the finished pictures were anything but. I have given up second-guessing Pixar before the films actually come out.Sure, Cars was Doc Hollywood in animated form, but DH is a perfectly charming movie and while Cars was less than what is expected from Pixar it was better than 95% of what else is out there.As for The Incredibles, there is something about it that just seemed off and I can’t put my finger on it; when my daughter dragged me to Megamind two things struck me; that it was as good as The Incredibles was and there were an awful lot of gratuitous cleavage shots for a kids movie. But again The Incredibles is better than most kids movies so all this is nitpicking..I hope that Brave is as good as it can be, and that the princess makes good expectations (BTW her parents are both alive for at least part of the movie since they are played by Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson) are thoroughly destroyed, or at least mercilessly tweaked. From the outline I would say that this sounds like a retelling of The Wizard of Oz , but then that would be second-guessing.


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