Louis Gets Swept Away In The Experience That Is Pixar’s ‘Brave’

Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios have teamed up together to produce a stunning film in their latest, Brave. Aimed at mothers and daughters, especially of the tween age, it forgoes trying to making a thoroughly modern heroine and sticks with emotions. Pixar once again shows it is unequaled in creating a visually stunning film. The once unique and fresh storytelling that they are also renowned for is there, but not as strong as it once was.

In a mythical kingdom, we find Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) a young girl just at age of marriage. The precocious girl has a yearning for un-princess like activities, such as riding and archery. Upon discovery that the other clan leaders in the kingdom plan to gather to have their eldest sons compete for her hand in marriage, she is determined to keep her freedom and make her own choices. A very upset Princess Merida finds herself out in the woods, running from the prospect of marriage. Upon entering a clearing, some sort of ruin-like Stonehenge structure, she begins chasing a will-o’-the-wisp leading her further and further into the woods where she discovers an old woman. Thinking her a hermit, who carves wood, Princess Merida finds the woman’s true nature and soon strikes a deal that, she hopes, get her out of her marriage. What she does to stop the impending marriage not only breaks convention, but sets about a series of events that may well destroy them all.

Visually, this is a very bright, colorful and rich wonderland of ancient Scotland. From the opening shot where the camera descends upon a young Princess Merida playing with her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), the film has a quality and freshness that Pixar has made across all its films.  From being able to see individual strands in Merida’s hair, to raindrops, to the leaves on the trees, it’s the level of detail and the outstanding quality of those details that has one’s attention from the moment the film starts. Even in the darkest of scenes, there is a vibrancy and quality of rendering that shines through, making this feel as if it is the Disney of old, remade with modern technology. Many of the shots and an aesthetic that light up the imagination the way Fantasia, or perhaps Snow White, once did. The voice acting is also well done, which also includes Billy Connolly as King Fergus and Julie Walters as The Witch.

While this has been marketed as a kid’s film, some of the scenes might be too emotionally intense for some of the younger viewers. In particular, the attitude Princess Merida has toward her mother might be a bit complex for small children. The minutes leading up to the resolution are both visually and emotionally intense. The nature of the relationship between Merida and her mother that is the focus of the film, and this particular film seems to pull the safety net out from under smaller viewers. Having said that, this would be well suited to just about or tween girls, as the message would resonate quite well with them. At its core, this is a film about mothers and daughters, about girls becoming women, and the women who raised them giving them freedom and space to be who they are. While an upbeat and compassionate story about the complexities of mother-daughter relations, it does take some dark and violent turns in explaining the dynamic.

There are several musical interludes, though the emphasis on humor is not lacking.  This is quite a funny film. The jokes come early and often, stemming from the oafish way men are portrayed, to a running gag about bears, to the three red-headed Princes who make off with sweets and make merry mischief for their nanny. Alternating between the emotions of the characters and many humorous situations and events, allows the story to keep a lightness about it that might otherwise be lost otherwise. It has a very amusing setting of visual and quips that intertwine throughout the film gracefully.

Employing the visual magic of Pixar should have seen the story more charming than it was. Parts of it seemed to aspire to a higher quality than what was seen. This is mostly is due to the story not being as vibrant as earlier efforts by the studio. While overall the film is well done, these moments are strong enough to give a lower outcome the entire project. Giving focus to Princess Merida as she finds her way, Pixar gets a bit noble with its aspirations about how far to go with the message of the film. Unlike Finding Nemo, where the message is underplayed, they seemed to have gone a different route. Seemingly more like WALL-E, this film uses a heavy hand to push its message, rather than a clever story.

Despite this, it is a funny and well crafted film.

While an overall entertaining film, it may be too emotionally intense for younger viewers. Fans of Pixar’s work will enjoy this immensely, as will anyone who enjoys modern animation. Recommended for the above mentioned, as well as tween, and young teen girls to see with their mothers, or to snuggle down with their boyfriends with.