Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Robbie Coltrane
Running Time: 100 min
Release: 3rd August
Brave is the latest animated effort from those resident geniuses over at Pixar (Toy Story 1-3, Wall-E, Finding Nemo and many more) and if there’s one thing they’ve been praised for time and again it’s how their films appeal to all ages, young to old. Does Brave continue that fine tradition? The answer is “Yeah, kinda.”
Set in 10th century Scotland, the film follows a free spirited, archery loving Princess named Merida (Kelly Macdonald). Her independent nature often brings her into conflict with her more traditional mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), so naturally she’s pretty upset upon discovering that she is be married off to a Prince from an allied clan. Distraught, Merida rides off into the woods where she happens upon a witch’s hut. Desperate for a way out of the marriage, she asks the witch to cast a spell to change her mother’s mind. And while the spell does indeed “change” her mother, it’s definitely not in the way Merida expected, and she must race to undo the effects of the spell before it’s too late.
The film’s plot is essentially a fairy tale in the style of The Brothers Grimm, covering familiar themes such as growing up and learning to take responsibility, but also staying true to yourself. The real core of the film though is the relationship between mother and daughter. Merida may be frustrated with her mother’s demands of her, but when faced with the prospect of losing her she realizes what a scary place the world would be without her mother’s love and support. Likewise Elinor learns that her daughter’s independent spirit may not be such a bad thing and that tradition can be broken with.
Sadly the plot itself is a little predictable and holds no great surprises, covering all the traditional fairy tale tropes without really adding anything fresh of its own. This isn’t a huge problem as it’s a simple story well told, but we’ve come to expect something a little more ambitious from Pixar. Likewise, the film’s humour— with lots of physical slapstick and good natured Scottish stereotyping—will more likely appeal to younger members of the audience than to their parents.
The animation is lush and crisp and the film offers many visually beautiful scenes (but once again the 3D effect adds precious little). The star studded voice cast all do strong work with their parts, with McDonald and Thompson in particular bringing real heart to their characters, though Billy Connolly does his very best to steal the show with his gleeful turn as the larger than life King Fergus.
Brave is a relatively safe and straightforward effort that may disappoint some Pixar fans, however it’s a solid addition to their filmography that’s never less than charming and entertaining. The kids will love it, and it should give grownups a few belly laughs too.