Pixar puts its witty, funny and highly visual thumbprint on an animated medieval Scotland, where folks are happy, musical and speak with a thick brogue and pay attention to their clan loyalties but perhaps not their parents. Witches and fairies are always on the periphery waiting to stir things up.
Princess Merida is a rebel; she’s being groomed to make a “suitable” match with one of the neighboring clans. She lives in a rubble castle in the wilds of Scotland, and claims the surrounding mountains and woods as her own. She’s a spunky girl who dislikes the strictures of being Royal and would prefer to ride her horse and scale cliffs for fun. An arranged marriage is not on her list of fun stuff.
King Fergus and Queen Elinor have invited friendly clansmen to the castle sons in tow to see if some marital arrangement can’t be reached to ensure peace in the land and Royal favor.
Merida is angry and defiant, and argues bitterly with her parents. At her wits’ end, she runs away into the night and follows ghostly will-of-the wisps through treacherous forests and as it turns out – a change in her life path. They lead her to a witch who gives her a potion that turns her mother into a bear. Merida is thought recklessness puts lives in danger and she won’t know the extent of her mischief until it’s almost too late.
King Fergus nurses a long held grudge against bears for taking off his foot. Several of the stuffed variety adorn the castle walls. Fergus’ hatred of them is fearsome. He kills first, asks questions later. Now his wife is a bear?
There are no bears natural to England and Scotland and haven’t been for about a thousand years when extensive hunting and deforestation wiped them out. Bear baiting in Elizabethan England was a popular sport, but those bears were imports. Today the government is considering reintroducing them along with other animals missing in action in the UK – wolves, lynx and elk.
There’s plenty of action and humor for youngsters but less for adults than Pixar usually provides. It’s an entertaining outing that will interest girls and not necessarily boys. It’s a girl’s point of view and males in the film don’t come off very well. They are often louts, simple, crusty looking and violent and dimwitted. It’s definitely a girl’s world in this corner of medieval Scotland.
Disney “brave little princess” meme is a familiar one by now. Girl empowerment has been the crux of a majority of their films over the last twenty years or so and while it’s a positive theme, we know the formula.
Very young children might be frightened by the transformation of the Queen into a bear. There is some violence, so depending on the child and his age, exercise caution in showing them Brave.
A top rate British voice cast – Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Waters, Kevin McKidd and a lone American, Pixar’s good luck charm John Ratzenberger – enriches and enlivens the film.
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35mm action, animation
Written by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell, Irene Mecchi
Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Opens: June 22
MPAA: Rated PG for some scary action and rude humor