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The impetuous, tangle-haired Merida, though a daughter of royalty, would prefer to make her mark as a great archer. A clash of wills with her mother compels Merida to make a reckless choice, which unleashes unintended peril on her fatherís kingdom and her motherís life. Merida struggles with the unpredictable forces of nature, magic and a dark, ancient curse to set things right.
For more about Brave and the Brave Blu-ray release, see Brave Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 3, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Directors: Mark Andrews (VI), Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell (II)
Writers: Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews (VI), Irene Mecchi, Steve Purcell (II)
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters (I), Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson
» See full cast & crew
Brave Blu-ray Review
"There comes a day when I don't have to be a princess. No rules, no expectations..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 3, 2012
There's no other explanation. Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar are having some sort of body-swapping Freaky Friday crisis. Disney Animation proper struggled throughout the Noughts: Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, Home on the Range, Chicken Little and Bolt all disappointed. Some were decent but underperformed, some weren't so decent and... underperformed. Pixar, though, dominated the animation market and awards circuit: Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up and Toy Story 3 left audiences and critics clamoring for more instant classics. But with John Lasseter's promotion to chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation and Pixar Studios, the field began to level. Now it's Disney that's delivering the all-ages crowd pleasers and sharply tuned adventures -- The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Winnie the Pooh and newcomer Wreck-It Ralph -- and Pixar that's suddenly and inexplicably floundering, first with Cars 2 and more recently with Brave. That's not to say Brave is a bad film. It isn't, not by any means. It's just slimmer, slighter and less satisfying than the Pixar greats of old, leaving one to wonder if the studio that Buzz and Woody built will ever be at the top of its game again.
Feisty, free-spirited Scottish princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is shocked and outraged to learn that her parents, rough-n-tumble King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and prim-and-proper Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), are hosting a series of games to determine which of three firstborn warriors will win her hand in marriage. Merida wants nothing to do with any of the lads, much less a betrothal, and decides to chart her own course instead, besting (and inadvertently humiliating) all three suitors in archery and claiming her future as hers and hers alone. Her mother is furious, the clan lords (Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson and Kevin McKidd) are insulted, and war is imminent. An encounter with a strange old witch (Julie Walters) complicates things even further. Merida purchases a spell to change her fate but only brings more chaos and confusion to an already chaotic and confusing situation. With just two days to reverse the spell, the young princess has to prevent war, mend her relationship with her mother and help her father destroy a demon bear that has terrorized the kingdom for years.
Much of Brave plays out like a direct-to-video Disney sequel rather than a full-fledged Pixar feature film. The story is simple and formulaic by any standard, the characters are lovable but all-too-expected genre archetypes, the conflict is minimal, there's no real villain to point to (especially with a kindly witch and a mindlessly aggressive bear being the only potential sources of villainy), resolution comes too swiftly and much too easily, and the entire tale lacks scope, scale and raw emotional power. Worse, with all of Scotland and its Highlands at Pixar's disposal, Merida's adventure is limited to the castle and the grounds immediately bordering said castle, and her most perilous journeys are made all the more effortless by glowing will-o'-the-wisps, which cut down on pesky travel time by pointing the princess in whatever direction she has to go. It's also one of the animation studio's shortest films, making it more of a bite-sized appetizer than a four-course meal. It's a shame too. So much of Brave is pure Pixar -- the casting, the voice acting, the memorable heroes and supporting players, the clever comedy, the heart and the breathtaking, oh-so-extraordinary animation -- that I found myself falling for the film, even though I knew it wasn't up to par. It didn't take long to realize, though, that I was falling in love with individual bits and pieces, not the whole.
I can't say the same for the other six kids in the room -- three boys and three girls, ages three through ten -- who couldn't pry their eyes off the screen, keep their jaws off the floor, or contain their laughs, gasps and cheers. I've made it a habit, whenever possible, of viewing critically divisive family fare with my son and our friends' caravan of children, and it certainly has an effect on one's perspective. Brave's biggest failing is that it won't sustain adults as readily as it will their kids, which begs two questions: who are these films for, and should they always be judged on their ability to reach audiences of all ages? Is Pixar not allowed to make kiddie fare? Does a movie about learning humility have to resonate with everyone in the room? Haven't we already had our day? Our films, our classics, our own adventures to pore over and cherish? Can't our kids have their own?
It's easy to dismiss any animated movie, especially one from a studio with so many overwhelming successes. And it's easy to dismiss Brave. It isn't as moving, awe-inspiring, invigorating, intelligent or sweeping as Pixar's best. But it also has valuable things to offer those who won't notice how familiar it all feels, who won't see its squandered potential, or care about its small-scale ambitions. A lesson in respect, honor and love. A tale of a family capable of weathering the worst storms. An adventure built on the notion that youthful impulse and tradition aren't mutually exclusive, and the idea that one is inadequate without the other. A magnificently animated entry in a master animation studio's catalog. Lesser Pixar film or no, Brave is all these things, and children, especially little girls, will adore everything it has to give.
Brave Blu-ray, Video Quality
Even when Brave left me firmly planted in my home theater, Pixar's stunning animation swept me away to lush highlands and misty forests unknown. Thankfully, Disney's 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation is just as gorgeous, bringing Merida's world to breathtaking life and, in some ways, making her somewhat humble adventure grander and more satisfying on Blu-ray than it was on the big screen. The film's palette is nothing short of magical, with lavish reds, fiery oranges, lovely greens, disarming earthtones, bright blues and inky blacks, all delivered via perfect color and impeccable contrast. There isn't a hue off kilter, or a hair out of place for that matter. Detail is magnificent, capturing every nuance the animators saw fit to incorporate into their already jaw-dropping animation. Tattered kilt seams, tight tartan patterns, pinpoint freckles, scraggly beards, errant whiskers, shaggy manes, scuffed armor, knicked blades, matted fur, the smallest droplets of water, thinnest blades of grass, tiniest leafs on distant trees... nothing misses the mark. Edges are sharp and clean, fine textures are terrificly resolved, and the image is as pristine as they come. Moreover, I didn't notice any instances of macroblocking, aliasing, noise or other encoding eyesores, and banding was in incredibly short supply. (Almost to the point of declaring the presentation band-free, although I'd have to pore over the film a few more times to be sure.) This one gets high marks without the least bit of hesitation.
Brave Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As if a masterclass video presentation wasn't enough, along comes Brave's Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround track, which is quite simply one of Disney's best lossless mixes of the year. Even in the film's opening minutes, the quality of the experience becomes abundantly clear. The kindly invitations of an almost inaudible will-o'-the-wisp, the wind rustling the tops of the trees, the grass crunching beneath Merida's feet, the sudden deafening roar of a demon intruder, the weight of the girl's father charging into battle. There's little doubt that Brave's sonic prowess will be a show-stopper. It only gets better from there too as Merida strikes out beyond the castle grounds, into the wild wood and farther. The LFE channel, bold and boisterous as ever, remains undeterred and unhindered throughout, injecting heft and presence into any and every element that requires even the least bit of its support. The rear speakers, meanwhile, create a truly immersive soundfield that's more enveloping and involving than most I've heard. The forests alone are a directional wonderland, Dun Broch castle even more so. Effects careen around the room with precision and startling accuracy, pans are devilishly smooth and dynamics are impeccable. All in all, Brave sounds as good as it looks. Together, the film's video and audio presentations are so sublime that it's almost overwhelming. And I don't say that lightly.
Brave Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Brave Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Regardless of how you respond to Brave -- by most every account a lesser entry in the Pixar canon that still manages to outclass most animated films on the market -- its Blu-ray release will go down as one of the best of 2012. Its video presentation is stunning, its Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround track is pitch perfect, and its supplemental package features a generous spread of extras that stretches across two Blu-ray discs. Is the film as wondrous as its BD release? Sadly no. Even so, children will be delighted with Brave's magical adventure, however slight it may be by Pixar standards.
Brave: Other Editions
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