Brave: "If You Had A Chance To Change Your Fate, Would You"

Director: Mark Andrews
               Brenda Chapman
Writier:   Mark Andrews
               Brenda Chapman
               Steve Purcell
               Irene Mecchi
Starring: Kelly MacDonald
               Emma Thompson
               Billy Connolly
               Kevin McKidd
               Craig Ferguson
               Robbie Coltrane 
               John Ratzenberger
               Julie Walters
Rating:    ****

Release Date:

Over the years Pizar has churned out hit after hit, with each film seemingly getting better than the last, that was until last year's Cars 2, a sequel that felt unnecessary, rushed and lacked the Pixar charm we all knew and love. So after that, Pixar's latest blockbuster, Brave, really had to bring the studio back on top form; luckily for them Cars 2 would potentially take some pressure off of Brave. This meant the studio could put aside critical and commercial concerns and simply concentrate on doing what they do best. Brave, is yet again something completely different and fresh for the studio; set in medieval Scotland (pixar's first period film), it featured a female Princess lead (Pixar's first human princess) and a more traditional Disney-esque fairy tale structure (yet again, something that they have never ventured into).

Emma Thompson & Billy Connolly
About midway through the production of Brave, the first female Pixar director (and voice, and eyes), Brenda Chapman, was replaced with Mark Andrews, and people began to fear that a male would not be able to do the story justice, luckily for all he does. Admittedly, the source material is a bit too straightforward and predictable than we are used to with Pixar films, but Brave is so well animated and beautifully told/performed, you soon forget any of the obvious issues.

The story of Brave follows a young Scottish princess named Merida (Macdonald), a fierce and fiery redhead with a real knack for archery. One day her mother and father tell her that she is to marry to a prince from another kingdom and she is offered three possible spouses to choose from. Not wanting to marry any of them, she rides off into the forest and happens upon a witch (Walters), who grants her one single wish. However, when the results of that wish go very wrong, she must find a way to do right her wrongs, and all before the magic spell becomes permanent.

Merida is an extremely strong female character (unlike past Disney princesses) and her struggle with her parent expectations and responsibility is one that kids will most definitely relate to. The supporting characters, and I am talking nearly all of them, are not quite as compelling or interesting to watch. Merida’s father Fergus (Connolly) and mother Elinor (Thompson) are probably the most generic of them all, with Fergus mainly serving as comic relief along with her three cheeky younger brothers. A mischievous set of triplets who exist purely to add the cuteness factor to the film. It's fair to say that after this film, How to Train Your Dragon, and the Shrek movies, I can honestly say I have heard quite enough of the Scottish accent in animated films, enough for my lifetime anyway.

Pixar's movies are always so popular because each and every film is aimed at every age group, but Brave really does feel like it is intended for a younger audience, both with it's plot and comedy style. There’s nothing wrong with that in fairness, but it’s for me personally it is really disappointing because it is missing the layers that usually set Pixar apart from its competition. Most of the jokes will probably fall flat on the adult audience members and for me it is one of the least funniest Pixar films out there, although I'm sure many children will disagree with me). Don't get me wrong though, I'm not saying the jokes are bad, it's just that I probably wouldn't call Brave a comedy film.

Julie Walters & Kelly MacDonald
I think for me the biggest issue is the plot and the plot twist in the middle. It comes across as clumsy and cliched, I mean you just have to watch The Little Mermaid or Snow White, and it has been done before. Of course this time around she saves the day rather than a Prince, but they all still have the same underlying story. There is still a hell of a lot to appreciate about this movie on a technical level. The action sequences are extremely thrilling and well-made, particularly some of the slow-motion archery shots, and the Scottish landscapes are truly breathtakingly beautiful. Pixar never really does wrong with the animation aspect, and just looking at Merida’s bouncy red locks, which are obviously are a high-tech marvel all on their own, you can see that Pixar haven't lost that skill just yet; if only the story had been more original.

Overall, Brave isn't a bad movie, not by a long shot, but it seriously lacking that Pixar sparkle. The mother/daughter relationship is believable and endears you to the character, but it fails to reach the same emotional highs of Pixar's previous hits, Finding Nemo or Toy Story 3. There is huge value (for me anyway) in creating a strong female lead who doesn’t need to prove herself as a man’s equal, but somehow she still feels like a pretty typical Disney princess, whether this is good or bad I'm still unsure on. There's no mistake about it, this is definitely an improvement on Cars 2, but Brave’s is still far from hitting the blockbuster bullseye.

Brave - Trailer