I thought Brave was a very great Pixar film. I also thought the critics were a little harsh on it. It is indeed, much better than certain folk have been letting on. For starters it is non-stop comic fun from start to finish. The slapstick is heavy but it never gets old because it follows the story and the characters' behaviors.
Merida is a great heroine: smart, plucky but not annoying. Her relationship to her mother seems a bit harsh but what teen (boy or girl) hasn't gone through that "hating your mother phase". The movie has a great lesson to tell about family, sticking to your guns and being brave in the face of danger. There are also different meanings of being brave in this film that youth should pick up and benefit from. Adults in the audience will love the film too. It has a lot to say about family and the drama is as resonate as any great Pixar film.
Brave is really like Finding Nemo for girls. It is really much a mother daughter journey (but with a twist). This is some of the most beautiful animation ever put to film. With such detail that rivals the best Pixar has to offer. I was laughing, crying and cheering the whole way. My guess is you and your family will too.
When I see the name Pixar, I know that their is quality behind the product. Their are few studios that can hold a candle to the output that Pixar has put out the last twenty five years, be it films or shorts. This is their thirteenth film, and once again, Pixar knocks it out of the park. Many expected that 'Cars 2' was the beginning of the downfall of the company, but that couldn't be farther from the case. Pixar's newest film, 'Brave', is full of the things that I've always loved about their films such as humor, an amazing cast, beautiful animation, adventure, and plenty of heart, while bringing something new to the table: a fairytale. This is, for me, not only one of the strongest films in Pixar's filmography, but one of my personal favorites.
The Scottish kingdom of DunBroch is thriving. With the noble King Fergus and his wife, Queen Elinor, at his side, the kingdom couldn't be in better hands. Merida, their daughter and headstrong princess, wants nothing more than freedom. She loves her family, but her mother's constant nagging is driving her to a breaking point. When the Lords of three different clans are invited to the castle, they are asked to bring their first born sons with them to present and compete for Merida's hand in marriage. Completely appalled by this, Merida competes with her own hand, which begins to put the country into turmoil. She escapes into the forest, hoping to change her fate somehow. Coming across a witch, she makes deal that can do just that. But things don't go as Merida was hoping, and she finds that her family is much more important than she had believed, and that being selfish to make things the way she wanted may not be the way to go about things.
First and foremost, I can't help but point out just how gorgeous the film looks. This is Pixar at its absolute best, which is nothing more than breathtaking. They've come along away from their 'Toy Story' days. The characters are all incredibly well animated and really look great. For their first fairytale, they really got the look and feel of them. Everything from the Scottish hillsides, the castle, and the forest are nothing short of stunning. I just can't speak highly enough of how beautiful the movie really looks. I shouldn't expect any less from Pixar, but they manage to surprise me more and more every time.
The film is very well directed by directors Brenda Chapman ('The Prince of Egypt') and Mark Andrews, in his feature film directional debut. Andrews replaced Chapman back in 2010, when Brenda couldn't see eye to eye with Pixar, but without her, the movie wouldn't have existed. She conceived the story and began production on the film, and I think the two of them really brought this movie so beautifully to life. Usually when movies go through changes like that, it doesn't bode well for the film, but for me, 'Brave' wasn't hurt by the changeover, and in fact, I think it could have helped it. The idea of a Pixar is nothing short of wonderful, and I'm glad that these two really pulled out the stops to pulled this off. While many will say the twist half way through the movie, which I won't reveal here, is predictable, I beg to differ. I think it works really well for the movie. It's also great that going into the movie, I didn't know much about it from the trailers. Nothing was spelled out, keeping the mysteries and questions about the movie up until the opening logo of the film. It's not many times that I get to fully experience a movie like that, and I'm glad to see I did here, and it worked.
I can't really talk about a Pixar movie without bringing up the score, which Patrick Doyle has done here. It's an incredibly moving score, and it really compliments the movie well. The Scottish music just sores and breathes life into the film, really making it almost its own character. It's just beautiful and sweeping, something I could listen to over and over again. The movie is also chock full of humor and emotion. Much of the humor comes from Merida's little brothers, King Fergus, and the Three Lords. They really lighten up the movie, which is actually slightly darker for Pixar standards, but not by much. The comedy is great, and thankfully, doesn't feel out of place. But where there is humor, there is also a lot of heart and emotion. I'll admit that I began to tear up, and maybe even shed a few tears, by the end of the movie. I really connected with Merida and her story with her parents. The way it plays out is so beautiful and moving, and I feel like it's hard not to connect and feel something for it.
But a Pixar movie doesn't work without a great cast, and what a cast they've assembled here. First, we have Kelly Macdonald ('Boardwalk Empire', 'No Country For Old Men') as the headstrong Princess Merida. She is fantastic as the character, and brings so much life to the spunky and wonderful character. I completely fell in love with her character, and a lot of that has to do with Kelly's fantastic voice work. But the great casting doesn't stop there. Her father, King Fergus is played by non other than Billy Connolly ('The Boondock Saints' films, 'The Last Samurai'), who is probably my favorite supporting character in the movie. His hilarious, but when he has to be serious, really delivers. Connolly is just a great actor, and I loved what he brought to the character. Then there's Emma Thompson ('Harry Potter' series, 'Nanny McPhee') as Queen Elinor. She really brings a strong, loving, but stern voice to the family, and she's great as the character. The problem is, I can't help but hate her at points, because maybe she is a bit too overbearing, but that's the character. And Thompson is great at doing it, which means she really pulls it off. Then we have some great supporting cast including Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, and Kevin McKidd as the Scottish Lords. I loved their characters, and each got a moment to shine, especially Ferguson as Lord Macintosh. I just can't get over how great the cast is. It really helps elevate the movie, and they're all so great in it, that I think they may be one of my favorite voice casts in a movie period. I loved them all so much in it.
'Brave' is a wonderful film, and one of Pixar's best. It's just another strong film out the gate for the studio, which proves to me that they're still one of the strongest ones in the business. Many are already saying that the downfall of Pixar has begun, but I couldn't disagree more. Despite what the naysayers say, 'Brave' is a strong film with an excellent cast, an amazing score, beautiful animation, and so much humor and emotion. This is Pixar at its finest, and I can easily admit this is one of my favorite Pixar films, period. Some may not agree, but if a movie can really touch your emotions the way it did for me, I think it has done its job, and I can't ask for anything more from it. In the end, I'm glad to report that Pixar has once again knocked another film out of the park. I can't wait to see what they do next year with 'Monsters University'.
Pixar has produced some of the best animated films ever made, and even the worst offerings are better than the work of most rival studios. However, after seeing trailers for Brave, I found myself wondering whether it would live up to my expectations. People running into walls or being hit in the groin are usually there to get a few cheap laughs and I expect more from a Pixar movie.
I shouldn't have worried.
Brave is aimed at a younger audience than Pixar's best work like Ratatouille and Up. Although it does contain deeper themes, such as conflict between mother and daughter, and dealing with society's expectations, the story is easy to follow. There were quite a few small children present in the theater when I saw the movie and I could hear them laughing and curiously asking questions about the characters. It also worked for me, and I'm by no means a small child.
A few of the action scenes and some of the scenes set in the dark forest might worry very young children, but I don't think there's anything frightening enough to stop anyone seeing Brave.
Those who were complaining that Pixar hasn't featured a female protagonist finally have a reason to celebrate; Merida (Macdonald) is featured heavily throughout, and she's a princess, although not in the traditional Disney style. You will hear a couple of songs, and there is a witch in the story, but Brave is not simply rehashing the formula exhausted in Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Instead, Merida is like a tougher version of Rapunzel from Tangled.
Brave is a coming-of-age tale set in ancient Scotland. The main clan-leaders all have sons, and Merida is expected to marry one of them. Unfortunately, she doesn't feel ready for marriage and wants time to discover how she feels about adult pursuits. All she really wants to do is enjoy her childhood, ride her horse, and practice her archery. This is essentially a story about a girl trying to change her fate.
Some of the supporting characters are funny. Her potential suitors are an interesting bunch of misfits, and they supply a few laughs early in the story. Merida's three younger brothers appear regularly and are used in very inventive ways.
Be prepared to hear Scottish accents throughout the movie. It reminded me somewhat of How to Train Your Dragon in that respect. I didn't find myself rooting for Merida as strongly as I rooted for Remy in Ratatouille because the outcome never really felt in doubt. Although Merida faces considerable peril, I never suspected that things would end badly.
The voice acting was particularly good. Merida's father (Connolly) stole a lot of scenes and was the source of much of the humor. Kelly Macdonald did well as Merida and kept her likable, even though some of her actions were misguided. I also noticed how effective Patrick Doyle's score was. Unlike most Pixar movies, Brave is full of action, and the music enhanced those sequences considerably.
The opening five minutes provided some of the strongest scenes in the movie as we were able to see Merida as a small girl and the relationship she had with her parents. Other magical moments included her encounter with will o' the wisps in the forest. Both of these elements reminded me of Studio Ghibli works, but Brave couldn't maintain that high standard for the whole movie.
What we are left with is an enjoyable 90 minutes with plenty of laughs. There's less substance than that found in the best Pixar movies, but it's still a worthy addition and I will buy the Blu-ray when it is released. The overall look of the animation does match Pixar's excellent standards and it's hard to imagine it looking any better. Be prepared for a few cheap laughs, but don't miss it in theaters. I saw the 3D version and I don't think it added anything to the experience, so stick to the 2D version if you want to save a few bucks.
I was pleasantly surprised by the full movie after being disappointed by the rather formulaic trailers. I should also mention that La Luna, the latest short from Pixar, airs immediately before Brave. That's well worth your time too.