*Review Number 100*
These days, expectations for any movie that has the Pixar name attached to it automatically comes with a set of lofty expectations as, up until recently, the studio could seemingly do no wrong with its animated feature films. Brave is yet another step forward for Pixar as it features the company's first female lead character in the fiery haired Princess Merida who defies a kingdom to change her fate.
Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a very free spirit that is more like her father Fergus (Billy Connolly) than her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson) who has been training her to reach the peak of female perfection since she was an infant. More likely to be wandering the forest practicing her archery than sitting in the castle weaving tapestries, the young heroine is shocked to learn that a competition is to be held by the first born sons of the other three ruling clans and the prize...is her very own hand in marriage.
When the other clans arrive and the tournament begins, Merida finds a loophole in this timeless tradition and, as first born in her family, claims her own hand which does nothing but infuriate her mother. The two have it out and the rebellious heroine dashes off in to the forest atop Angus, her trusty steed. What happens next will change the fate of not only the Princess, but of all four clans that make up the kingdom as Merida learns some hard lessons about life, growing up, and magic spells.
Pixar movies are known for being visually stunning and "Brave" is certainly no exception. Taking full advantage of Scotland's beautiful landscapes, lush forests, and amazing scenery, you really feel like you are right there with the characters as they run down castle hallways or are sailing on a ship as it enters the harbor.
Throw in the immaculate attention to detail that is put in to everything from Merida's perfectly chaotic ginger locks to the fine textures of woven tapestries and stone carvings and this definitely ranks as one of the highest quality animated productions of any kind.
The young Princess' journey is one filled with emotion and lessons learned that I thought in some ways mirrored Simba's coming of age tale in The Lion King and in other ways featured the youthful exuberance of Ariel from The Little Mermaid who found herself unexpectedly thrown in to a world she had always wanted to be a part of. Aside from these classic similarities, this is still a very original story and Merida is a strong, defiant character that refuses to be labelled or fenced in.
What makes this story work is the focus on family and how parents, children, brothers, sisters, husbands, and wives all share an inseparable bond that is more important than anything else in the world. You really get a sense of how much the members of Merida's family love each other and will do anything and everything to protect what they have, even if a magical spell or two stand in their way. "Brave" was directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell.