With Brave, Pixar doesn’t stray from its tried and true method of picking a central theme and conflict and wrapping an entire story around it. Unlike other movies, though, Brave takes generally darker path than is typical, shrouding it with more than normal slapstick level comedy. In this review, I will attempt to minimize spoilers, but some may sneak in. You have been warned.
Brave is essentially a coming-of-age story about a Scottish Princess who is to be wed to the first-born of the other three clans of Scotland. The entire story begins with a very young Merida (Kelly MacDonald) receiving her first bow from her father, Fergus (Billy Connoly). Being a princess, her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson) attempting to teach her daughter the ways of being a princess and future queen of the clan, objects to this. Though Fergus and Elinor mildly disagree on this, it sets the tone throughout the movie.
In constant conflict with her mother, Merida sees a loophole in the traditional laws that she exploits to fight for her own hand in marriage. She enters herself into the archery contest she declared for her hand and wins, immediately turning into her mother’s scowling face. A row ensues between the two and Merida is off into the forest, where magic awaits her to change her fate.
Every parent and child has had this look at one another.
The witch in the film (Julie Walters) turns out to be the wisest creature. What she says invariably happens and this goes outside the script as well. As with all adventures, the protagonist has a succeed/fail formula, and after the movie, it became apparent that the witch’s words were correct regardless of the outcome. A good bit of writing in an otherwise simple script.
Pixar continues to hold the bar nice and high producing the eye-candy that everyone loves. The forests are both majestic and scary, the castles look cold and hard, the henges dark and foreboding, and the characters complete caricatures of their own attitudes. The visuals alone make it worth a watch, but a slightly bad calibration in the 3D projector in my theater made for some fuzzy spots in an otherwise very colorful display of computer animation.
One thing that caught my eye were the will-o-the-wisps. They reminded me of the ping pong and napkin ghosts you see on Halloween, just turned blue and made translucent. Its one of those things that you can’t unsee once you see it. I really felt the wisps were made on the cheap and no one took a second look at them.
See, ping-pong balls and napkins.
I found the music to be somewhat fitting, but unmemorable. As expected, bagpipes are heavily used, but I can’t be sure that they were actual Great Highland bagpipes or another kind. Mercifully, none of the score itself was stereotypical Highlands music, which was a blessing. No Scotland the Brave!
The players were definitely passable. I’m rather ashamed to say that despite having a very large percentage of Scottish blood in me, I wouldn’t know the difference between Hollywood Scottish and actual. One character in particular said things in such a thick accent that I’m sure they were either trying to mock Robbin Williams or put a single aspect of the actual dialect into the movie. Even the other characters couldn’t understand a word he said (save his father), so I didn’t feel completely left out.
10 bucks to whoever figures out what this guy says.
My six year old was quite thrilled with the movie, though he couldn’t seem to follow the storyline entirely. For an adult, the movie takes a very easy to follow path and could be watched almost inattentively without losing significant portions of what’s going on. A bit of focus will show a lot of slapstick, innuendo and banter (“how about we set a trap.” “how about you SHUT YOURS!?”) to keep the adults amused throughout the film.
While not Pixar’s best film, I’m pretty sure that it will end up on the shelf for kids and grandkids in the future. The message was pretty loud and clear without throwing it in your face, the action was fun (if brief), the comedy relief helped fill the slow spots in the movie and nothing made me wretch, which is always good. Not awesome, but definitely not boring.