Pixar has always been the epitome of perfection when it comes to animated films. Unfortunately, last year’s Cars 2 proved that even geniuses at Pixar have their bad days too. This year, the studio plans to go beyond anything they’ve done before with Brave. Being Pixar’s first original film since 2009’s Up, does Brave have what it takes to hit the bullseye or does it miss its mark?
In the Scottish kingdom of DunBroch there lives Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) and her royal family. In an effort to unite the neighboring kingdoms, Lord Fergus (Billy Connolly) offers his daughters hand in marriage to whichever suitor performs best in the castle games. In an effort to convince her parents to change their minds, Merida uses a magical potion she got from a witch to change her mom’s opinion. Unfortunately for her it does much more than just that as her mom has turned into a bear. Now, she must find a way to reverse the spell or else her mom will spend the rest of her life covered in fur.
Brave marks many firsts for Pixar. This is their first film featuring a female protagonist as well as their first period piece. It is also the first time in 25 years that Pixar has completely rewrote their animation system. Suffice to say, it all pays off in the end. Brave is a fanciful fairy tale that looks absolutely stunning.
Princess Merida is the highlight of the film with her free-flowing fiery red hair that contrasts well with greens of the lush forest and the greys of the castle walls. Her fiery hair also matches her attitude because Merida is one princess you don’t want to mess with. She’s constantly outperforming her male counterparts, whether that’s showing off her skills with a bow in archery or climbing to the tallest cliffs in the kingdom and drinking from the waterfall of kings. She got spirit so it’s no wonder she doesn’t want to get married.
Still, turning your mother into a bear isn’t exactly the best way to go about convincing your parents of this. Pixar does a wonderful job at humanizing Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) while she is in bear form. Even without being able to speak, you can clearly see the emotion Elinor portrays in every scene. There’s also the strong mother and daughter bond that develops over the course of the film. It’s a little Brother Bear-esque, but fits well into the aesthetics of the film.
In a surprising twist, Brave is much darker than anything Pixar’s done before. There are some ferocious bear fight scenes that could possibly frighten kids, and some of the humor is more mature. If you’re looking for the cute and cuddly side along the lines of Toy Story or Finding Nemo, this is definitely not it. That being said, it’s nice to see Pixar taking a slightly different direction, not that there was anything wrong with their production in the first place.
Brave ends up being a great addition to the extensive Pixar collection and while it may not live up the highest quality of entries, it’s a great movie nonetheless. The visuals are breathtaking and the story has just enough depth to keep both kids and adults alike entertained.
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