Merida, the fiery Scottish princess of Pixar’s newest film “Brave,” joins the crowded echelons of this year’s strong female heroines.
With her bright red curls, headstrong attitude and prowess with the bow and arrow, Merida (Kelly Macdonald, “The Decoy Bride”) has received a lot of hype as the newest Pixar protagonist, namely because she is the first female lead. There’s probably plenty of feminist prose gushing about the surge in strong female characters this year, so to get to the point—Merida isn’t that unique.
Her character has been stitched together from blueprints of plenty of female heroines before her, from Disney’s Mulan to Katniss from “The Hunger Games.” And honestly, there are only so many times you can hear her pine “I want my freedom!” even though it’s endlessly amusing to hear in a Scottish accent.
Her redeeming factors are her luscious red hair — which must have taken many painstaking hours to animate — as well as the movie’s interesting direction to portray her as imperfect. She is headstrong to the point of selfishness, which leads to a series of mistakes that drive the plot of the film.
As the oldest child of King Fergus (Bill Connolly, “Gulliver’s Travels”) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson, “Men in Black 3”), Merida must marry one of the sons of the three lords who are allied with her kingdom in order to strengthen their realm. However, Merida only wants to ride through the woods and shoot her bow, much to the disdain of her proper mother who has been grooming her for ruling since childhood.
To avoid her unpleasant fate, Merida seeks out a forest witch (Julie Walters, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”) to create a spell that will undo her looming betrothal. However, as all magic goes, the spell does not go as Merida hopes and ends up wreaking havoc on the people she loves, specifically her mother.
“Brave” is not at all the darkly epic tale that one would guess from the trailers, but rather a fun romp through the woods. It could even be construed as a touching mother-daughter bonding film. It’s hilarious, enjoyable and charming, but it’s also safe.
There are very few surprises with “Brave.” The plot twists are easily predictable, many of the scenes seem a bit recycled and the plot is passable, to say the least. It’s adorable and funny, but its attempts at being heartwarming are contrived enough to end up in a Hallmark greeting card.
One of the high points of the movie is its unrestricted, self-deprecating humor. However, some of the comic scenes—which mostly consisted of, for lack of a better word, pissing contests between the three lords, played by Kevin McKidd (“Comes a Bright Day”), Craig Ferguson (“How to Train Your Dragon”) and Robbie Coltrane (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”) — verged on crassness.
The film is wildly enthusiastic, but lacks the profundity of some of Pixar’s greater films like “Up” or “WALL-E.”
Still, at least it’s better than “Cars.”
Despite its faults, there’s no denying that “Brave” is absolutely stunning. The animation is exquisitely detailed, and the film even manages to capture Scotland’s majestic countryside. Indeed, the film revels in its grandiose shots of the animated Scottish landscape as well as the incredibly meticulous character animation, which makes it all the more jarring when the movie abruptly shifts to another crude joke.
“Brave” may be a bit crude and predictable for a Pixar film, but it is magnificent feat of animation and an undeniably enjoyable film to watch.