Despite the incredibly annoying tweenagers behind me who felt the need to provide commentary throughout the duration of the film, Brave greatly exceeded my expectations. Through its many trailers and TV spots, to me, Brave looked like a step backwards for Pixar, not in technology, but in story. It seemed like it was going to be more in the style of Disney’s classic princess fairytales, but it ended up being Pixar’s own unique take, made over with humor, great performances, and the visual wonderment that Pixar consistently delivers.
The story takes place in Scotland where Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a young princess to one of the land’s four kingdoms, is constantly being trained by her mother on how to be a proper princess. Elinor (Emma Thompson), the queen, tries her best to instill lady-like (or princess-like) values onto Merida, but Merida has always been more of the tom-boy type, preferring her bow and arrows to dolls and table manners. After a day away from “training”, Merida comes home to dinner and finds out that she is set to be married, by way of a competition, to a young suitor chosen by each of the other respected Kingdoms. Merida is shocked by this news, because she not ready for her fate to be chosen by anyone other than her.
On the day the other Kingdoms show up for the festivities, Merida discovers she gets to choose what kind of competition the selected suitors will compete in for her hand in marriage. Instinctively, she chooses archery for the fact that she is an experienced archer and decides she’s going to compete for her freedom while they compete for her heart. Merida shoots three bulls-eyes, with the third splitting an arrow in the style of Robin Hood. Her rebellious stance leads to fight between her and her mother Elinor, ending with Merida running away into the forest.
It is in the forest that the film truly displays its Disney qualities. There is magic in this forest. Little blue orbs lead Merida to a cottage of a witch, where she barters with the witch for spell that will change her mother’s mind on the matter of marrying the young princess off. The result is a pastry, but the spell comes with one heck of side effect. After one bite, Elinor transforms into a giant bear. This is quite a problem, because in the prologue of the film, Fergus (Billy Connolly), the king, is dis-legged by a bear and desires revenge on the beast to properly conclude his favorite story to tell. Merida and Elinor narrowly escape the walls of the castle in search of way to reverse the spell, and in turn, learn more about one another along the way.
Brave is really about the relationships between parents and their children. Elinor is certainly a good parent, devoting all of her time to give Merida the life she thinks is best for her. Of course, what parents think is best does not always resemble what their children do. Regardless, a good parent’s intentions are always pure, but more than anything else, good communication between them and their children is most important. While creating an entertaining movie for the whole audience, Brave is attempting to remind the parents of this and that they need to support whatever it is that makes their child happy. Pixar parenting at its finest.
(NOTE: To the parents of the two tweens sitting behind me in the theatre – your children will amount to nothing.)