BraveFeature Film | Mark Andrews By Kristy Puchko
A fairy tale with Pixar flair.
Pixar tries their hand at a Disney-styled princess tale for Brave, their first female-fronted feature, and the result is an adventure sure to leave parents and kids grinning from ear to ear. In medieval Scotland, Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a wild-haired free spirit with a warrior's thirst for adventure, constrained by a princess's genteel obligations. While she dreams of a life unfurling arrows as she gallops through the glorious glens--gorgeously rendered in lushly realized animation--her mother the queen (Emma Thompson) insists she learn the many, many rules of being a proper lady, and eventual wife. This is not only the film's central conflict, but also its central relationship as circumstances force the warring mother and daughter to discover who each other are outside the constraints of their roles as parent and child. It's an elegant story of growth that's not typically told in the fairytale construct, and Pixar works hard to make its mature plotline shine. Unfortunately, there's elements--in its design and story--that feel a bit overworked, from the trio of identical, troublemaking little brothers, to the climax's confusing McGuffin. Still, Merida's humor and heroism is utterly exhilarating, and between her and the film's ardent sense of danger--that may prove too frightening for some--there's plenty of passion to pull audiences through its rough patches. Ultimately, though not as masterfully crafted as Pixar's best, Brave is far smarter than most family-friendly entertainment, offering captivating characters, a rollicking quest, and a thought-provoking story that makes us marvel not only at the world of the film, but at our own world as well.