The best Pixar films – Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up, and the Toy Story trilogy – all have one thing in common: they appeal as much to adults as they do to kids. The studio’s latest film Brave, however, can be safely described as a children’s movie. After all, the animation is gorgeous but the humor is mostly slapstick, and the message is hammered into our heads repeatedly. Plus, the film’s premise – of a feisty princess who must undo a witch’s dastardly spell in the face of danger – feels old-fashioned and familiar.
What’s refreshing though, is that Brave features Pixar’s first female protagonist in 17 years. Set in 10th century Scotland, the film narrates the tale of Merida (voiced by Kelly McDonald), a free-spirited princess who’s more comfortable with a bow and arrow in her hand, than wearing tight corsets and learning how to curtsey. When her mother Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson) insists that Merida pick one of three knucklehead heirs to marry, the rebellious redhead obtains a spell from a witch to change her pushy mother’s mind. Unfortunately that spell creates a ‘bear’ of a problem, and now Merida must gather all her courage and race against time to save her mother’s life.
Exploring such themes as tradition v/s modernity, the need for healthy communication in parent-child relationships, and the pressure of expectations, Brave is likely to strike a chord with pre-teens and young adults. The film has some stunning visuals of the Scottish highlands; there’s humor to be found in the scenes between King Fergus (voiced by Billy Connelly) and the varied lords in his castle; and there are also a few teary-eyed moments between Merida and her ‘beastly’ mum after the spell takes its toll.
But don’t expect to lose your heart to these characters. They just don’t have the depth of Carl Fredrickson and Ellie in Up, or Woody and Buzz in Toy Story 3. Neither layered, nor blazingly original like many of Pixar’s previous films, Brave offers relentless action and silly laughs instead…which isn’t exactly a terrible recipe for a children’s film.
I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Brave. It’s got its moments, but you can’t help feeling let down.