Director: Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Kevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson
Running Time: 100 mins
Synopsis: Bored of conforming to the traditional Princess role that her mother has tried constantly to mold her into, Merida defies her parents by disagreeing to an arranged marriage. But after seeking the help of a Witch, Merida’s actions bring about disastrous consequences for her Kingdom and family.
Pixar make it very difficult to skirt around the issue of assigning clichéd terms of adoration to their work, and unsurprisingly their latest collaboration with Disney lives up to all the clichés. Magical, stunning and utterly mesmerising, the tale of Pixar’s first female lead set against a sumptuous Scottish backdrop provides plenty of laughter, tears and morals while being a thrilling and exciting yarn for viewers of all ages.
The odds seemed stacked against BRAVE due to a midway change of director, but Mark Andrews has steered Brenda Chapman’s THE BEAR AND THE BOW into something of absolute beauty that everyone should – hopefully Chapman included – fall in love with. Though the snow that was central to her original vision may have been stripped away, the mother-daughter aspect that was essential to her story remains the most emotionally charged part of this very amusing film and will have many mothers struggling to hold back the tears due to some of the home truths it deals with.
Full of fight, curiosity and vigour, Kelly Macdonald is superb, ensuring Merida is someone little girls will look up to and little boys will want to know. Though she is undoubtedly a heroine that won’t be forgotten in a hurry and will inevitably become a staple part of the Disney Pixar universe, the same can’t be said of the majority of the ensemble who aren’t particularly memorable, even if every one of them has a very distinct personality, right down to Merida’s trusty steed, Angus.
The world Merida discovers outside the comforts of the castle is breathtakingly dazzling, with the will o’the wisp that guide her reminiscent of both AVATAR and PRINCESS MONONOKE. But amidst the magic and beauty of the forest, it’s Merida’s hair that impresses beyond comprehension. A character all to itself, with new technology created especially to ensure every strand has life, you constantly have to pinch yourself to remember the young Princess is, in fact, animated. And, while the big bear that roams the forest, Mor’du, may be a little too much to handle for the very small, there is enough humour during times of peril to distract those a little older.
King Fergus and Queen Elinor play against type with Billy Connolly’s big, burly King constantly in the shadow of his cool, calm and collected wife, Elinor. Though Emma Thompson’s Queen may be diminutive in stature, she is definitely in control of the Kingdom, with Fergus relying on his humour and tall tales to appear of any worth. Their constant, wonderfully underplayed bickering makes for brilliant watching and is a very amusing slice of married life, with Thompson playing it exactly how you’d imagine had it been live action.
Merida’s parents work hard to forge relationships with the three families that arrive to fight for her hand in marriage, and the Dingwall, MacGuffin and Macintosh (the film is dedicated to Steve Jobs) clans are BRAVE’s main source of humour, providing copious, expected kilt and casually racist drinking jokes. Kevin McKidd is even able to utilise his home, Doric, dialect as Young MacGuffin, which leads to hilarious and bamboozling attempts at conversation. But it’s Julie Walters’ Witch and Merida’s triplet brothers who steal the comedic limelight, which says a lot about the strength of the script when the triplets never utter a comprehensible word and Walters’ appearance is painfully brief.
Unmistakably a Pixar product (watch out for the Pizza Planet truck and customary John Ratzenberger cameo), the humour is as razor-sharp as ever and the animation at its most impressive and jaw dropping – particularly remarkable after the spacescapes of WALL-E. Always intelligent and never boring, BRAVE holds surprises that the trailers thankfully never hinted at and, though they may seem a little silly and preposterous at first, they are committed to so steadfastly that they eventually weave into the film’s tapestry with ease.
Though BRAVE may suffer by never feeling wholly original, with elements of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, SHREK 2 and other animated offerings hard to shake, these similarities also serve to remind you of your favourite Disney Pixar films. And, while some may argue it conforms too much to fairytale convention, BRAVE’s modern twist on mythology and stereotypical animated characters reflects the young girl at the centre who is trying so desperately to make her own legend a modern one.
BRAVE is in UK cinemas now