Change Your Fate

Pixar has been making feature films under the Disney brand for seventeen years now and they have finally delivered their first female protagonist. And guess what… she’s a princess!  For those keeping score at home, that makes Merida a Disney princess.  So, not only does Brave come with the high expectations that have been earned by the Pixar name, but Merida will also undoubtedly be compared to Disney’s great line of princesses.

Born into her role as a princess, Merida has always been something of a tomboy.  She begrudgingly tolerates her mother’s attempts to train her in what it means to be a respectable woman in a position of power, but she lives for the days when she can ride free into the forest on her loyal steed, firing arrows into strategically located targets.  When the neighboring clans bring forth their suitors, Merida rebels and breaks tradition, causing a major riff between her and her mother.

Escaping into the forest, Merida is led by the ghostly will-o’-the-wisps to a quaint little cabin inhabited by a mysterious old wood carver.  Merida hopes that this woman will be able to help her change her fate, but she will soon learn that you should always be careful what you wish for.

Merida in BraveTo give away any more of the plot would be to spoil part of the fun of this movie.  Let’s just say that there is a reason why the trailers have essentially only shown clips from the first act of the movie; kudos to the Pixar/Disney marketing firms for realizing the value in leaving some things to be discovered along the way.

Merida is a fun character and one that has a little more spunk to her than some of Disney’s other princesses.  She also probably has the most hair—outside of Rapunzel, of course—and little girls who want to dress up like her for Halloween will need a good wig maker.

Although Merida is a good character, the supporting characters don’t necessarily live up to the Pixar standard.  The company that has given us Dory in Finding Nemo, Dug and Russell in Up, and all of Buzz and Woody’s friends in the Toy Story movies comes up short of delivering any truly memorable supporting characters in Brave.  They try, giving us Merida’s trouble-making younger brothers, her tough, but goofy King father, and some poorly qualified suitors, but although each of these characters have their moments, none of them really stand out.

Brave looks fantastic.  The Scottish landscapes are stunning and the human characters are extremely detailed and realistic—in an animated, exaggerated kind of way.  The will-o’-the-wisps were also quite impressive, looking as if they existed somewhere in between the second and third dimensions of this 3D movie.  The story is also good and involving, never running flat.  There’s some great humor mixed in with a couple of intense action scenes.

As entertaining as it was, however, Brave seems to lack that special kind of Pixar magic.  There is no scene that audiences will be discussing in the weeks to come, such as the marriage montage in Up or the ending of Toy Story 3, nor are there many characters outside of Merida that kids will likely be badgering their parents for in the toy stores.  Still, a subpar Pixar movie is not the worst thing.  It also should be noted that the crux of the story is the relationship between the mother and daughter, meaning that the story might not strike home as closely for this male reviewer as it might with the female members of the audience.

Brave is rated PG for “some scary action and rude humor.”  If you are okay with Pixar’s previous movies, then you won’t have a problem with this one.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Brave.