“Brave” is the latest offering from Walt Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios, a company that has created an incredibly strong lineage of animated films including the “Toy Story” films, “Finding Nemo”, “Wall-E”, “Up”, and many others. Which such a proud heritage, the question that everyone wonders first is not so much how good “Brave” is itself, but rather whether it it’s a worthy addition to the Pixar legacy.
The answer? Yes, absolutely. While I don’t feel it’s going to be considered one of Pixar’s best by that many people, I certainly do think they’ve put together another animated effort of extraordinarily high quality, with an abundance of soul.
“Brave”‘s heroine, Merida, is a Scottish princess who has recently reached the age where she’s to be offered in marriage. Of course, this is unconscionable to her… especially seeing as she would much rather hone her archery skills than spend her time learning about what is required of a princess. And yet tradition demands it, and her mother, the Queen, is insistent. Much to Merida’s dismay, a tournament is arranged where the chiefs of the kingdom’s other clans send their first-born to compete for her hand.
Incensed, Merida stands up for herself, instead. She bests all the suitors in the archery competition, insists that she has just won her own hand, and storms off. Her mother is furious with her, and they argue vehemently. Merida flees the castle to the woods, and it’s there she runs across something that will change her destiny. A magic trail of wisps that lead her to a witch’s cabin… There, she’s offered a way to change her mother, and thus her fate.
Of course, Faustian bargains are never what they appear, and the Merida will have to deal with the repercussions of her actions…
“Brave” has all your requisite animated film staples: talking animals, old witches, mischievous little sidekicks, overbearing parents, and menacing villains. There are action set pieces and comedic sequences aplenty. It features a fantastic voice cast that give the characters flavor and vigour. Merida and her parents are voiced wonderfully by Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly, and Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane all provide some comedic relief as the Scottish Lords and lads who are vying for Merida’s hand.
One of the primary things that will keep “Brave” from inclusion in the upper echelon of Pixar films, however, is that many of those other films – and most of their best ones – were completely unique in plot and character. Talking toys, or the monsters that live in your closet. Fish with parental instincts and rats who dreamed of cooking. Who would have thought of a trash collecting robot with a soul? At times those films also contained wonderfully original storylines, such as flying a house away on balloons. I’m not calling “Brave” unoriginal, per se, but it’s certainly has numerous elements that have been well used in the genre, such as the transformative spell that needs to be reversed in a set timeframe lest it become permanent, the witch who lives in the cabin in the woods, and the princess who desperately wants to control her own destiny. When you’re trying to enter the presence of such esteemed company as the best that Pixar has offered, small factors such as that can be a big difference maker.
But the film is impeccably animated (of course), and full of humor, action, and endearing moments. The stroyline will engross you, and there’s little here that I could imagine would disappoint anyone. It’s an extremely enjoyable animated film. At its heart is the struggle between mother and daughter, whose competing desires for the daughters future obscure the most important thing of all. The fact that they love each other very much. And above everything else in this film, that’s the element that I took away from it. This is a story with a strong core relationship, it centers around the mother daughter bond and how frustrating it can be, how powerful it is, and ultimately, how wonderful.
As a brief side note, “La Luna”, the animated short preceding “Brave” was charming as hell. I enjoyed it very much, as well.