Pixar’s latest animated film Brave is real, fun and exciting. Like most Pixar releases, the hype for this film has been incredible: everyone is expecting a home run from Pixar because, well, it’s Pixar—the Babe Ruth of animation. Well, Brave does not disappoint. While the Pixar’s first fairy tale doesn’t feel entirely unique, it is still a grand slam.
Brave tells the story of a medieval royal family living in the Scottish wilderness. Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) enjoys the freedom of the woods, horseback riding and her favorite pastime, archery; however, Merida rarely gets to express her true self because her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) is constantly instructing her in proper princess behavior and duties. Merida finds comfort with her other family members, her dad King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and her triplet brothers, Hubert, Hamish and Harris. Tempers fly when Queen Elinor springs a sudden betrothal upon Merida, in which the oldest son of the three outlying clans must compete for Merida’s hand in marriage. Upset and betrayed by her mother, Merida sets out into the forest following the trail of the mysterious will o’ the wisps on a quest to change her fate.
Although Brave is set in a somewhat mythical world, Brave is Pixar’s most “real” film—there’s no cars, no bugs, no toys. Instead, the film focuses on the human characters and their relationships, with the mother-daughter struggle between Merida and Elinor driving the plot throughout the entire film. Each member of the family is real and flawed. In the beginning, both Merida and Elinor’s points of view are portrayed so objectively that I couldn’t choose a side. You are meant to empathize with both characters. Even during the end of the first act, I found myself getting rather emotional over Merida’s plight.
The humor in the Brave is spot on. After seeing some of the trailers, I was worried that the humor would be too gaggy and over the top, relying on the triplets to serve solely as comedic relief. But sticking with the realism of the film, for the most part, the humor is expertly executed to offset the dramatic moments. Surprisingly, King Fergus and the Lords play comedic roles as their barbaric roots as competing clans appear. The film is dark and Pixar did a great job lightly balancing the film with these and other humorous touches (just wait till you meet the Witch, who seems to be a relative of Koume and Kotake, the witches from The Legend of Zelda series—the resemblance is uncanny!). Get ready, you laugh and smile a lot in Brave.
The plot, on the other hand, didn’t seem entirely original. Pixar touts itself as makers of original stories, but I felt as though I’d seen elements of this film before. I can name a few Disney animated movies that Brave seems to be a mashup of. With that being said, Pixar still managed to make this story memorable in its own unique way. Even if elements of this story have been told before, Pixar still obviously has told them best.
Brave is a beautifully crafted, technical achievement for Pixar. The studio even had to recreate its animation software from scratch in order to meet the technical requirements needed for the film. I feel this movie has more to do with hair than Disney’s Tangled because each character’s hair represents his or her own unique personality and attitude; Merida’s painterly hair in particular steals the show as it spunkily bounces from frame to frame.
I loved Brave. The story is masterfully told and the characters you instantly care for, thanks to the contributions of both directors Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews. I am excited to see it again with others so I can revisit the beautiful landscapes, quirky characters and lovely story. Brave is another home run: warning track, wall, Pixar can touch them all!