Set in the highlands of Scotland during a more mystical time, Brave tells the story of a Scottish princess named Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald) . She lives in a castle with her father, the brawny King Fergus (voiced by Billy Connolly), her mother, Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson), and her three rambunctious little brothers. If it were up to Merida, she’d spend all of her time riding her horse and practicing archery, in other words “manly” things. The only person who sees a problem with this is her mother, who has been trying to groom Merida into becoming a proper princess. The Queen doesn’t think she should have to remind her husband and her daughter that weapons are not to be put on the dinner table. But even though the two of them bicker they still have a loving, pleasant relationship. Until it comes time for Merida to get married—she is in her early teens after all. The problem is no one seemed to ask Merida if she wanted to get married. And oh boy does she not.

There are three suitors vying for Merida’s hand, or rather being pushed into vying for her hand. They are the sons of the neighboring kingdoms’ Lords, and they seem just as ready for marriage as Merida is, which is to say not at all, with the exception of maybe proud Young Macintosh. Like Merida, the boys’ parents are the ones pushing for this marriage. In fact it is the Lords who do most of the arguing and fighting, trying to make the marriage work out in their favor; they practically start a war in the King’s dining room.

Lords MacGuffin, Dingwall, and MacIntosh

Merida would have them fight each other forever because the longer they take, the longer she’s not married. As a strong-willed girl, she’s appalled at the thought of her future being decided for her. She’s not about being controlled. Even her hair refuses to be tamed. So it’s no surprise that she goes to extreme lengths to fight her unwanted fate, lengths with involve making a deal with a witch. I don’t think I need to say what a bad idea it is to make deals with witches. Seriously, how often do they turn out well? But it’s not Merida’s fault she hasn’t seen enough movies to know this. She’s desperate, she’s naïve. But it’s her mother who ends up paying the price.

Princess Merida and Queen Elinor

Since this is a kids’ movie, I don’t think I spoil much by saying that Merida’s mistake ultimately ends up bringing the mother and daughter closer together. It takes them a while, but they finally begin to understand each other’s points of view. And even though Merida made a reckless decision which endangered others, all parties involved actually learn from the experience. It’s a sweet story, just the kind you’d expect in a kids’ movie. Parents will likely appreciate that, particularly parents of girls; Merida has the possibility of being a strong female role model. And while girls will probably get more out of the movie than boys, I think the young dudes will enjoy it as well. There’s enough action and funny antics for any gender.

The Triplets

I don’t know how much the average childless adult (like me) will get out of Brave though. The story is solid, but the film as a whole lacks some of the charm and magic found in many of Pixar’s other movies. I tend to prefer it when Pixar takes me to worlds I’ve never seen before, like ones where humans have all left Earth because they over-polluted it orwhere monsters have to scare children to collect their screams. It takes a lot to rise to the greatness of films like Wall-E,  Monster’s Inc., Cars, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles, and Brave just doesn’t reach those heights. It doesn’t really show us anything new, which kind of sucks since this is the first time they’ve really had a female lead. I would have liked it to have been better just for the girl power of it all. As it stands, Brave fits in better with the Disney princess movies than previous Pixar movies. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not what I was expecting, and I don’t think it will appeal to as wide an audience as previous Pixar films.

I will admit that I’m probably biased against Brave in that Pixar movies centering on humans are the least interesting to me. I wasn’t a huge fan of Up or Ratatouille. The Incredibles is an exception, and that has to do more with my love of the superhero genre.


Still there was a lot to like in Brave, particularly in regards to how beautiful it looked. It may be a world we recognize more easily than other Pixar movies, but that doesn’t detract from how wondrous and magical it was. I saw it in 2D, and it looked great. I imagine that in three dimensions the environment will become ever richer and more inviting (though I often hear that 3D often dulls the colors a bit as compared to 2D). I bet some of the action sequences will look great in 3D too, and maybe Merida’s hair will seem even crazier. I loved her hair. Two things that always amaze me in computer animated films are hair and water. They just seem like the most difficult aspects to pull off, so it’s always mind-blowing to see how the animators capture such verisimilitude. I also liked the way the kids moved in this movie. They kind of bounced and bobbled around, almost like they vibrated with some sort of internal energy. Watch how a young Merida moves in the opening scenes of the movie. It’s really cute.

So what this comes down to is if you have kids, take them to see it. You’ll both probably like it. If you’re just an adult who likes cartoons, you might want to wait for DVD for this one unless you’re a big fan of the Disney princess cartoons. It’s got a good, sweet story, and while I don’t think it’ll wow you, it’ll certainly entertain you.


Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt), Steve Purcell
Writers: Mark Andrews (John Carter), Brenda Chapman (Beauty and the Beast, Fantasia/2000, Cars), Steve Purcell, and Irene Mecchi (The Lion King)

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