Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Duration: 100 mins
With the voices of: Kelly MacDonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly
Score: 3 out of 5
Review by JAMES BARTLETT
Firstly, BE WARNED – there’s a big spoiler in my review (something unexpected that happens in Brave) – so if you don’t want to know what it is, stop reading now!
Merida (MacDonald) is a spirited Scottish lass; she has a head full of red curly hair, loves to ride horses and is a wizard with a bow and arrow. Her dad – King Fergus (Connolly) – loves her spirit too, and she’s certainly got his courage – he lost a leg to a legendary wild bear when she was just a bairn.
Unfortunately, it’s Queen Elinor (Thompson) who runs the castle, and she takes her responsibilities very seriously. For this particular princess that means no weapons on the table, watching what she eats and and learning a million “ladylike” things – naturally, this means that the two of them argue like only a mother and her daughter can. So, when the other three Clans from the Kingdom arrive and present their number one sons – yes, as potential marriage material for Elinor – there’s a huge row.
Tearful and angry, Elinor follows some will o’the wisps through the forest to the strange house of a witch (Julie Walters) and persuades her to make a spell that will change her mother, and therefore change her destiny. Elinor presents this magic pie to her mother as a peace offering, and sure enough she changes – really changes.
It’s here where the story really changes in tone too, because Elinor transforms into a big black bear. She’s a funny bear though; still prissy and tidy, still chastising Elinor with theatrical gestures and exasperated grunts and roars. The second half of the movie now becomes a kind of buddy/mother and daughter affair as the pair search the forest to try and find the witch again.
Can they find the secret spell that will turn Elinor back into good old mum, or will time run out and she’ll be changed forever? By the end they’ve discovered that some of the old legends are true, and it looks like Merida is going to get what she wanted – but lose everything she now realizes she needs.
As the first movie from Pixar featuring a female protagonist, hopes were especially high for Brave. There were problems in production – original director Chapman was replaced by Andrews (and Purcell gets a co-directing credit; they all worked on the script as well) – but there’s no doubt that the animation is as flawless as we’ve come to expect. Merida’s voluminous hair looks especially amazing and real, and Scotland (real or not) looks absolutely gorgeous – as it indeed is.
Thompson pulls off a Scottish accent really well, Connolly is as enthusiastic as ever and it’s great to catch the voices of fellow Scots Robbie Coltrane (the Harry Pottermovies) and television talk show host Craig Ferguson), but it has to be said that the high Pixar bar isn’t quite reached this time.
Not only is Merida rather an ungrateful teen brat (and keeps insisting it’s “not her fault” to her mother when it really is!), but she rather fades away in that second half as opposed to the heroine she seemed to be. There’s also that lack of wit and the sly wink/adult references – tricky to pull off, since half the movie is just a girl and a bear – but all that said, the three wee brothers of Merida are an amusing trio akin to The Three Stooges, Elinor/Bear is a real character without ever speaking, and there’s enough here to amuse kids – just not so much the adults.