Film Review – Brave

Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late. — (C) Disney

Pixar’s first film with a female lead protagonist also marks a first for Disney: Merida is first to enter the famed Disney princess ecosystem who doesn’t seek romantic love to complete her story and find true happiness.

Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a feisty teenage redhead with magnificently unkempt hair who prefers shooting her bow and riding her beloved horse to the courtly travails constantly foisted on her by her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), is a giant, peg-legged boy-man with an epicurean passion for food, booze and fighting, and only one apparent hatred: the hideous bear Mor’du, who chomped off his limb many years earlier. Matters come to a head when the leaders of three clans, who have united with Fergus to keep the kingdom at peace, travel to court in order to fulfil a ceremony which demands that his daughter must marry one of their eldest sons. Merida sets off in a Kevin-the-teenager style rage into a nearby spooky forest; there she finds what may just be a way to shift the course of her life away from its seemingly inevitable conclusion.

Once titled The Bear and the Bow, Brave’s title has drawn comparisons with a certain Mel Gibson movie beloved of Scots nationalists. But while Brave’s gorgeous and innovative use of shading and colour – the movie has the look of a living, breathing pastel painting – will no doubt boost tourism, there is little here to suggest that directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman are cheerleaders for Scottish independence. Like many of its predecessors, from Up to Finding Nemo, Brave imagines lead characters with hugely conflicting objectives and achieves its happy conclusion by bringing them satisfactorily together. Disappointingly for Alex Salmond et al, the message is that putting aside one’s differences, no matter how repugnant such a compromise may at first appear, is the path to enlightenment.

Likewise, when compared with the refreshingly daring efforts which helped to make Pixar’s name, Brave may appear to have been misnamed. And yet the film no more resembles the traditional fairytale (as espoused by parent company Disney) than The Incredibles does a superhero movie. At its heart, this is a Pixar film which eschews the genre’s trademark reliance on facile, saccharine moralism in favour of the robust, no-nonsense and heartfelt nonconformity that runs through all the studio’s best efforts.

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