Scotland’s Princess Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) was raised to be proper, do everything perfectly, and learn everything about her land. If something was not done correctly, nothing but disappointment would be revealed on her mother’s face. She would repeatedly be told to do it over again until it was done correctly. When it comes time for Princess Merida to marry, according to Scottish law, a letter is sent to the three Lords of the land. The indignant leader, Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson), the giant Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd) and the grumpy Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane) arrive by boat with their less than qualified sons.
An archery contest is to be held for Merida’s hand in marriage. However, the red-headed rebel and skilled archer, Princess Merida, doesn’t want any of it. She, without telling anyone, decides to shoot for her own hand in the contest – causing uproar between the clansmen. After a fight between Merida and her Mother, Merida rides into the forest upset and determined to change things. When she finds an eccentric woodcarving witch (voice of Julie Walters), she asks for one spell . . . to change her fate. When things do not go as Merida expects, it is up to her and an unexpected helper to set things straight before everything becomes permanent and the kingdom breaks out into war.
Merida is a strong-willed, courageous, horseback riding, skilled teen-aged archer andsword fighter that is trying to find out who she wants to be in life. And by the way –she is definitely not ready to be married yet. Her mother, Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson), who is as strong-willed as her daughter, tries to get Merida to see things from her point of view. Needless to say that it doesn’t work very well in the beginning.
Queen Elinor plays the role of teacher, disciplinarian, and diplomat. Her husband, King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly), is a great sword fighter, hero, and protector of his kingdom, albeit impulsive at times. He acts more like a kid than a King when it comes to taking things seriously. Merida also has three young triplet brothers: Ham, Hubert, and Harris (never voiced) who constantly get into trouble and provide the audience with constant laughs.
Brave is the first Pixar film (of thirteen) to have a female lead character and is also Pixar’s first fairy tale. It’s also the first film to debut Pixar’s new animation system, and it shows. This 3D film is visually amazing. As you fly into the Scottish Highlands at the beginning of the movie to seeing Merida take her Clydesdale, Angus, on an adventure to a beautiful cascading waterfall farther in the movie, you feel like you are in Scotland. You can see every little intricate curl of Merida’s untamed fiery-red hair. The amount of detail is incredible.The musical score by Scottish veteran composer Patrick Doyle is absolutely beautiful. The voice talents of Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald, Scottish actor Billy Connolly, and Emma Thompson are fantastic and were perfectly cast.
Unfortunately for Brave it does lack a few things . . . like the trademark Pixar wit that their previous movies have had. Writers did substitute in some humor (mostly revolving around kilts), but overall this one missed Pixar’s high standard. Also, when it comes to the supporting characters, they just feel static. In past Pixar movies, like Toy Story and Monsters Inc., you always felt that you got to know a good amount about the supporting characters. In Brave, it’s almost like they were forgotten and left to the wayside after they were introduced only to be added back in as a side note every once in a while. Lastly, Director Brenda Chapman was switched out for Director Mark Andrews half way through production. Other than a bit of a wavering tone, I do not think that it was too obvious in the finished project.
Brave is rated PG for some scary action and rude humor. This movie is quite a bit darker and scarier than previous Pixar movies. From the scary bear Mar’du with arrows and weapons dug deep in his back from fights of old, to characters fighting with each other, to a witch that uses a giant cauldron to cast a spell, this movie might be a little too much for young children to handle. Along with seeing some scary bear fights, you will also see some bare bums of the Scottish clansmen in one scene and the bare backsides of the triplets in another. In addition, we hear a reference to the queen being naked under a tapestry (nothing is ever seen) and her husband telling the clansmen to have a little respect. A key is also hidden in a lady servant’s cleavage.
Overall, Merida is the most heroic, or shall I say “Brave,” Disney/Pixar princess yet. I love the untamed fiery red hair, the arrow shooting, sword-fighting, adventurous, independent princess. She can defend herself with the best of them and for that matter, better than her potential would-be suitors. Brave is not the typical romantic “princess-gets-her-prince” story. It’s a mother-daughter story about forgiveness, the importance of family, and growing up. This movie is great for both guys and gals.
Brave is an original story that is definitely worth seeing in theaters with children ages 9+. For those with younger children, there might be some more mature kids who can handle it, but I would recommend you see it first.
While there are no cuss words and no adult content (other than the couple of crude moments mentioned above) to worry about in Brave, there are some things to be aware of. There are mysterious blue lights called “will-o’-the-wisps,” almost creature like, that call out to people. In the story Queen Elinor says that they are magical and if you follow them they can “lead you to your fate.” Several times in the story, movie characters end up in a Druid circle. Most of the time the characters just walk through the circle, but Merida’s horse is clearly scared of it and has to go around it in the beginning of the movie. Clearly, it’s an important part of the story since several key elements of the movie happen in the circle. (Note: the word Druid is never used in the movie.) Also, there is a witch who casts a spell for Merida at a price to change Merida’s fate.
Fate and destiny are talked about many times in the movie. However, in this medieval, pre-Christian Scottish setting, it seems that Merida is referring more to what is expected of her socially than anything of a spiritual matter.
Click here to watch the trailer for BRAVE
To learn more about author April Kruger, visit Cross Shadow Productions