Starring (voices) – Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, and Craig Ferguson
Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell
Brave is a big surprise. The Pixar produced and Disney distributed film is a story about mothers and daughters. There is no handsome Prince, but there is a Princess, a Queen, magic and a pesky witch. Oh and some bears.
Pixar films are technically wondrous but can lack the warmth of the animated Disney Classics. With Brave they have finally broken that barrier. The film delivers a personal story and not, as the trailers seemed to suggest, Braveheart with a warrior princess.
Our protagonist Princess Merida boasts an intricately animated mane that would make Rapunzel jealous. Merida is a tomboy and a rebel and doesn’t show any signs of wanting to grow up. While her father King Fergus indulges her, mother Queen Elinor tries to teach her responsibility and constantly admonishes her to be a lady. Tensions ensue, particularly when Merida is faced with having to do her royal duty and keep the kingdom together.
The plot twists into unexpected territory here – for good and bad depending on one’s personal tastes, but it is refreshing nonetheless. Too many modern heroines are all “girl power” and not much else. Merida is a far better realized character, growing and maturing before our very eyes, and this is probably why the ending strikes such a false note. One suspects the resolution is more a result of pandering to modern tastes rather than organic growth in the characters.
Nevertheless, credit goes to the script which truly captures the incredible complexity and tensions that characterize the mother-daughter dynamic, however fantastical the yarn gets. Brave sticks to a far more timeless storytelling style than most animated features today, with the now staple contemporary wise cracking of supporting characters kept to a minimum, and thankfully so. Not only do these jokes strike discordant notes that pull viewers out of the story, they ultimately serve to date these films far before their time.
It will be particularly interesting to see how the film is received and reviewed internationally. Set in Medieval Scotland and clearly created with Western sensibilities in mind, the film has nonetheless harnessed some universal themes. I am South Asian, and the tensions between familial duty and individual desire resonated particularly well. I swear I’ve had the same confrontations with my own Mother.
Is the story for everyone? No. The second half falls apart a little for anyone that doesn’t care for (wo)man vs. beast, but ultimately this is an emotionally authentic film and worth a visit to the local cineplex.
Take your Moms.