Brave – Review of a fabulously Scottish Disney Pixar movie

What a magical, magical film. In all honesty, I was so blown away by Disney Pixar’s movie “Brave” that I am tempted to leave my review at that – there’s nothing I can write that will do it justice! Alas, you probably want a few more details from me, so I will do my best.

Like many of the Disney Pixar movies, Brave is a powerful ‘coming of age’ story. Our heroine, Merida, is an intelligent, talented and headstrong teenager whose greatest wish is the freedom to make her own choices in life. We’ve all been there… only for Merida, her freedom may spell disaster for everyone around her.

Merida’s story is set in ancient times in the Scottish Highlands, where young women like our heroine are expected to marry the strongest suitor from another clan. Wishing to carve her own path in life, she argues furiously with her mother about it, and defies the age-old custom.

In the worst possible way.

BRAVE Young Macintosh. Copyright Disney Pixar 2011. All rights reserved.

She allows the young men from neighbouring clans to compete for her hand in an archery competition, but then puts their skills to shame with her own archery display… thus winning her own hand.

BRAVE Merida takes aim. Copyright Disney Pixar 2011. All rights reserved.

Her father is mortified, her mother furious, and the men from the neighbouring clans ready to declare war.

BRAVE Merida between the clans. Copyright Disney Pixar 2011. All rights reserved.

To make matters worse, Merida focuses all of her frustration and resentment on her mother, and persuades a witch to grant her a wish made in haste… if only she had thought a little harder about what would happen when her wish came true.

The tale that unfolds is reminiscent of the myths and legends I grew up with, using just the right balance of humour and mystery and Disney’s wonderful storytelling to teach morals without preaching.
BRAVE Merida with the witch. Copyright Disney Pixar 2011. All rights reserved.

I’ve always been a fan of Disney Pixar movies – they never fail to take animation to another level entirely and to make it a rich experience for children and parents alike. You always know what you’re going to get: the masterful storytelling that has made Disney so wonderful over the years, combined with Pixar’s unique humour and attention to detail, movement and texture.

So I had very high expectations (never a good thing)… and, well… I was blown away. Brave is magical.

BRAVE Castle DunBroch copyright Disney Pixar 2011. All rights reserved.From the very first minute of the film, I was swept away by the beauty and majesty of the rugged Scottish Highlands in rolling mist. The scenery is stunning, the detail breathtaking. Then as little baby Merida springs on to the screen, the pace of the film changes – she is a spritely, rambunctious little thing, with a cheeky little grin that will have you smiling too.

As she grows older, you’re drawn to her flaming red curls. A masterpiece in and of itself, her hair captures everything you need to know about Merida’s personality – it’s unique, full of energy, life and movement, and can’t be tamed… and that’s what makes it beautiful. I would give anything to spend the day with the Hair Animation team just to watch them perfecting each and every ringlet.

Merida’s relationships are incredibly well observed, from her tolerant Big Sister attitude towards her hilarious triplet toddler brothers, to her warm relationship with her doting father.

BRAVE Merida amongst the triplets. copyright Disney Pixar 2011. All rights reserved.

The relationship that really struck me, though, was the one between Merida and her mother.

BRAVE Merida with Queen Elinor. Copyright Disney Pixar 2011. All rights reserved.

Thinking back on the other films, this must be a Disney first. In every Disney Princess movie I can think of, the mother is absent – perhaps because it’s the most complicated relationship to get right. There was a real risk here that it wouldn’t ring true, that they would be like those cheesy mother-daughter relationships in family movies and American advertisements.
But Disney Pixar got it right – so right – and the result is a disturbingly well observed and painfully real depiction of what most mother-daughter relationships are like during those awful teenage years. To be perfectly honest, there is a scene which is so powerful, so believable, and so perfectly awful that it made me feel … oh, I can’t even describe it… but suffice to say that I never thought it was possible to feel physical grief during a kids movie.
Don’t get me wrong, though – just because the female characters have depth, it doesn’t mean that this is a soppy chick flick.  Much like Tangled, Disney Pixar’s Brave is a big, fun adventure film with lots of laughs, scares and the most incredible Baddie I’ve ever seen. The action sequences are superb, if a little scary for the younger kids, and the way the animators have captured Merida’s unparalleled archery skills will have you hooked.

BRAVE Merida with bear. Copyright Disney Pixar 2011. All rights reserved.

Should you see the film? Absolutely. Do not miss it. In fact, see it a few times.

For me, Brave is the perfect storm of humour, truth, snappy dialogue, and mesmerising animation. It’s an age old tale, a legend brought to life with the spunkiest, most enjoyable of heroic female characters. It’s a perfect example of how good storytelling can make you feel at one with the characters and breathe the same air. And it will make you wish upon wishes that you had curly hair.

Now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Official Synopsis

BRAVE on DVD and Blu-RaySince ancient times, stories of epic battles and mystical legends have been passed through the generations across the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland. From Disney and Pixar, a new tale joins the lore when the courageous Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) confronts tradition and challenges destiny to change her fate.

“Brave” follows the heroic journey of Merida, a skilled archer and headstrong daughter of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the unruly and uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric Witch (voice of Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to harness all of her skills and resources – including her clever and mischievous triplet brothers – to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late, discovering the meaning of true bravery.

Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, and produced by Katherine Sarafian, “Brave” is a grand adventure full of heart, memorable characters and signature Pixar humor that audiences of all ages around the world have come to eagerly expect. The film is available on DVD and Blu Ray from Nov 26, 2012

About the Director and Voice Talents

Director Mark Andrews served as story supervisor for the Disney•Pixar films “Ratatouille” and “The Incredibles,” and was Oscar®-nominated as the co-writer/co-director of the Pixar short “One Man Band.”  He also contributed to the screenplay as co-screenwriter and served as second unit director for the 2012 Walt Disney Studios film “John Carter.” Director Brenda Chapman directed DreamWorks Animation’s “The Prince of Egypt” and was story supervisor for the Disney classic “The Lion King.” Producer Katherine Sarafian produced the Oscar®-nominated Pixar short film “Lifted” and served as production manager for “The Incredibles.”

Two-time Emmy®-nominated actress Kelly Macdonald stars as Margaret Schroeder on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” and as Ravenclaw’s ghost, The Grey Lady, in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”  Her film credits also include “No Country for Old Men,” “Gosford Park” and “Trainspotting.”

Appearing in the movies “Men in Black 3” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” Emma Thompson is an Oscar®-winning actress (“Howards End”) and screenwriter (“Sense and Sensibility”) who most recently starred in, wrote and executive produced “Nanny McPhee Returns.”

Native Scot Billy Connolly is a comedian, musician and actor. His film credits include “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” “The Last Samurai” and the award-winning “Mrs. Brown,” for which he was nominated for a BAFTA. He also served as narrator for the Walt Disney Animation Studios short “The Ballad of Nessie.”

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Janis

Founder & Director at ReallyKidFriendly
Janis is a cheery and versatile digital expert with a healthcare background, usually seen either geeking out or sprinting through North London trying to catch her kids, Mads and Danger Boy. Thanks to her two boisterous rascals, she has become an expert in soft play areas, parks, energetic music classes, and where to get a stiff drink once they’ve gone to bed.
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