Cast: Kelly MacDonald, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane, Billy Connolly
Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
For Pixar's latest outing, it's off to the Highlands of Scotland we go....and into a time of myths and legends.
Kelly Macdonald is Princess Merida, a young girl who's grown up under the watchful eye of her mother, the Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) and King Fergus (Billy Connolly).
Merida's a free soul; she defies all that tradition would request of her as a potential queen. Daily, her mother tells her "A princess does not" and lectures her so much so that Merida feels overwhelmed by the overbearing nature of her daily life.
So, when the four clans of the highlands come together to seek Merida's hand and to unite the regions, it's the final straw as far as she's concerned. Heading off in a rage, she ends up deep in the forests nearby and upon meeting a witch, unleashes a curse which will have far ranging consequences for her family and the clans themselves.
Brave is not the knockabout film that perhaps some of the earlier teaser trailers and clips suggested it may be - and it's great to see some of the central plot has been left for the film to reveal rather than endless trailers.
It's a dark adult tale, likely in parts to terrify some of the younger end of the audience. It's also a tale of family and of a strong bond (or reaffirming thereof) between mother and daughter.
It's also gorgeously animated - from the opening sequences in the forests of the highlands, the cameras swoop and sweep through the landscapes and ramparts of various structures in the land with visual aplomb (perhaps a little too often do the directors rely on this eye popping trick).
Once again, the Pixar animation is truly technically marvellous to behold - from the aforementioned landscapes through to the mesmerising way each of Merida's curls of red ginger hair bounce around her head, this is once again, world class animation at its absolute best. Macdonald gives Merida a touch of feistiness but it's a petulant beast that comes to the screen and one who merely fights until she gets her own way. Thankfully, pairing her up with her Clydesdale horse, Angus, gives a little comic relief here and there.
So, it's somewhat curious to say that this occasionally nightmarish film with its overbearing adult themes is a little lacking in plot in places - there's scant little peril facing Merida until the final portion of the film as the effects of the curse really start to take hold and then the danger becomes real. The male characters in the film are really secondary to anything other than buffoonery as they fight and brawl.
It's not to say that Brave is not enjoyable, it's just that this tale of a mother and daughter essentially rediscovering their bond is not up to the usual high standards of what Pixar tends to proffer up for our enjoyment.
All in all, Brave is to be applauded for blazing the trail of feminism and providing a strong animated female lead for its audiences; but its middling story and lack of real adventure unfortunately leaves this visually impressive tale with a reliant on magic ending that is rushed, muddled and confusing.
(Thankfully though a little light shines through this dark tale with the opening short, La Luna - this tale of a life on the moon is well worth your time so make sure you're there on time for the film to start)