US Animation

Brave

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures


Reviewed by Melissa Minners

 

            When I first saw posters featuring an animated redheaded teenager with a bow and arrow or a sword, I instantly knew that Disney Pixar had come up with another one of those princess movies all the kids love.  After seeing trailers for Brave, I knew that kids would love it, but I actually had an urge to go see it myself.  Set in Scotland, the trailers were lush in the color and scenery of the country and featured a story steeped in the Highland culture.  So, as soon as I got the chance I decided to check Brave out in the theaters.

            Brave is set in the Highlands of 10th Century Scotland.  The main character, Merida (Kelly Macdonald), is a princess, born of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) of Clan DunBroch.  As a child, Merida is the light of her parents' eye.  They are extremely close, Elinor teaching Merida stories of her ancestry and tips on being ladylike while Fergus teaches Merida the arts of protecting ones self with a sword or bow. 

            One birthday, when Merida is just a wee lass, she receives her first bow from Fergus.  As she heads off to play with her new gift, she discovers a will-o'-the-wisp and follows it through the woods.  Her mother explains that such creatures are known to lead their followers to their fate, confusing Merida since the wisps lead her right to her family.  But Merida doesn't have much time to think about it, as her family is attacked by a terrifyingly huge and ferocious bear named Mor'du.  Fergus protects his family and loses his leg as a price.  The bear escapes with his life, forever hunted by Fergus.

            Years pass and Merida becomes an adventurous teenager.  Skilled with bow and sword, Merida has done more to follow the path of Fergus than Elinor, much to the Queen's chagrin.  Once very close, Merida and Elinor see eye to eye on very little, but Elinor is determined to mold Merida into the epitome of the perfect Highland Princess.  Merida begrudgingly learns etiquette, public speaking and the like, but never feels comfortable in the role of a princess.  This puts even more strain on the bonds between Merida and her mother.  But the bonds begin to unravel completely on the night that Elinor informs Merida that, according to tradition, she is to be wed to one of the firstborn sons of Fergus' allied clans who will compete for her hand in the Highland Games

            Choosing archery as the sport in which the clans will compete, Merida stuns everyone by competing in the contest herself and embarrassing every archer in the group with her skills.  Elinor and Merida embark in one of those classic mother/daughter arguments that will span the test of time.  Merida decides to take fate into her own hands and runs off.  At Stonehenge, she once again encounters the wisps which lead her to the home of a witch (Julie Walters).  Merida asks the witch for a potion to help change her mother (meaning change her mind) so she can change her fate.

            Unfortunately, the witch takes changing her mother literally, giving Merida a potion that changes her mother into a bear.  Now hunted by Fergus and his allies, Elinor must trust Merida to get her to safety.  Merida takes her back to the witch's home only to find it vacated, but the witch has left a message - the change in her mother will become permanent unless she mends the bond torn by pride.  As Merida struggles to discover what that bond is, she watches her mother become more and more like the bear she was transformed into.  Can Merida find the answer to saving her mother's life and somehow also change her own fate?

            Now, if you are an avid G-POP fan, you would know that I'm not much for 3D movies.  I would rather see the film in 2D and get the experience of a good storyline and great acting rather than all the special effects of a 3D movie.  But I made an exception for Brave, because I imagined the Scotland countrysides, castles and the remarkable Stonehenge to be awesome when viewed in 3D.  I was excited to see what Disney Pixar could do with this adventure in 3D format and I was to discover that I would not be disappointed.

            I was first treated to a short film called La Luna in which three generations of Italian males head off in a boat.  There is no dialogue in this short, but we are made to understand that this is a sort of right of passage for the youngest member.  The oldest tries to teach the youngest his way of doing things, while the second oldest tries to show the youngest how to do things his way.  We soon learn that these three are caretakers of the moon.  They clean off the shooting stars depending on what stage the moon is supposed to be in and the youngest ends up showing the older two a better way of doing things.  I thought La Luna was incredibly cute and a terrific way to prepare the audience for Brave by offering up a mythological explanation of the various stages of the moon.

            Then, the feature film began and I knew I was right to see this movie in 3D.  Disney Pixar outdid themselves on this one.  The beauty of the Highlands is perfectly expressed in this film and the awe-inspiring landscape of Scotland is well-suited for the 3D format.  The animators used a rich color scheme with lush greens and browns, bright reds and deep blues.  The beauty of this film alone is remarkable, but add to it the enjoyable storyline containing an important message for its viewers and the Celtic-influenced music and the movie becomes that much more incredible. 

            Brave is a film that every woman - child, teenager or adult - can relate to.  Who hasn't had arguments with their parents regarding their future.  Parents often have dreams for their children that don't quite coincide with their children's hopes.  This can spark quite a war between parents and teenagers, who, at that rebellious age, are willing to fight back for what they believe in, whether right or wrong.  The writers of this film perfectly capture the struggles between mother and teenage daughter.  The solution is right there in front of them if they would only listen to one another and be willing to compromise, but, as in most of these heated arguments between mother and daughter, both are too worried about presenting their side than actually listening to the other's. 

            I have heard some say that they wish Merida was a stronger female character.  I can't understand how the writers could have made her any stronger.  She doesn't have to be constantly kicking butt to be a strong female character.  There are other attributes that combine to make one strong.  After all, Merida excels at weaponry, keeps a cool head in the presence of danger and fights for what she believes in.  No heroine is perfect and there are bound to be stumbling blocks, but the important thing is to learn from one's mistakes.  Merida does and that makes her character even stronger. 

            I had an excellent time watching this film and didn't even mind paying the over-inflated price to see it in 3D.  The animation was stellar, the characters were easy to relate to, the storyline was fun and enjoyable and emotions evoked by the story spanned the gamut as I found myself laughing, cringing, smiling and at times even shedding a tear.  Brave is a terrific movie and one made to be enjoyed by viewers of all ages.  I can't wait for it to come out on DVD so I can add it to my growing Disney collection!

 


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