It’s refreshing to see a Pixar film in the classic human form. ‘Brave,’ story by Brenda Chapman, takes cultural traditions of historical Scotland to the screen and, in doing so with its bright whimsical cast, it can win hearts. We’ve seen plenty of toys, bugs, fish, machines, cars, and monsters take voice and character and, although those may still outdo ‘Brave’ a bit, it’s a pleasure to see mankind on a different Pixar level. ‘Up,’ ‘The Incredibles,’ and ‘Ratatouille’ did well in giving ‘Brave’ a good head start.
An atypical princess, Merida (voice by Kelly Macdonald) wants to break tradition and choose her own fate, not wanting to be betrothed to anyone through a series of games. She seeks adventure and freedom from duty. When her defiance and frustration lead her to cast a spell that unknowingly turns her mother into a bear, not the change Merida was expecting, she seeks a solution to her new problem while learning the value of familial bonds and the importance of her heritage and history.
The characterization in the film really brings it to its best. Merida is a stubborn dreamer with hair like the sun. She’s a typical teenage girl who wants to live life with her own rules, yet has that Scottish spark and courageous streak like her rambunctious father that gives her spontaneity. It’s this that leads her to fight for her own hand in the games and decide to make a sudden magical wish in the heat of her anger. Her three small red-haired bobbing brothers give the film a special adorable and mischievous quality that adds three little extra punches to the comic elements. Parents Fargus (Billy Connolly) and Elinor (Emma Thompson) are a great dynamic duo, different in the wife’s strict adherence to order and the husband’s epic storytelling goofy attitude, but each play off each other nicely.
Of course the animation stands out and the perfectly timed abruptness of humor and dialogue give it that wonderful Disney/ Pixar quality that we love, but the story itself isn’t what we all might have expected seeing the preview. Perhaps we thought Merida goes off on an adventure, defying her kingdom and family and finds other magic to change her fate. Her mother turning into a bear didn’t seem much of a possibility. Although it works for the most part, it seems somewhat easy of a problem, too cliché with a witch casting a spell. The ending can be predicted from the beginning. But the substance in between is still solid and witty.
‘Brave’ does deserve some distinction. Although it becomes less surprising as the film goes on and the tale could have been more unique, it is still enjoyable. Each character was created beautifully, the voices sure of themselves and clear in their accents. Don’t forget to enjoy the music as well. ‘Learn Me Right’ featuring British artists Birdy and Mumford & Sons gives this film that sincere culminating effect you may just want to revisit.