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Friday, June 22, 2012
Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters
Scottish princess Merida defies her parents by perusing an interest in archery, but inadvertently jeopardizes her father's kingdom in the process.
Brave (2012) | Review
Restoring Relationships, Restoring Trust
J. Alan Sharrer
Last year, however, something seemed to change. Although Cars 2 made more money than some countries' GDP, many critics for the first time gave a Pixar film less than favorable reviews. People wondered whether making a financial profit had suddenly become more important than a quality story with believable characters (of course, kids probably didn't care in the least—Tow Mater and Lightning McQueen were on the screen). I, for one, gave Pixar a mulligan for the film—but expected them to return to grand storytelling in their next feature, Brave.
So, does Pixar's thirteenth feature film pass the test? It depends on what you're looking for. If you're looking for an incredibly intricate plot with more twists and turns than an episode of Law and Order, you're going to be sorely disappointed. If you're hoping for a film in the vein of The Little Mermaid or Cinderella, let me dash those hopes right now. But if you're hoping to see a film that places a premium on relationships, choices, consequences, and restoration, then this is the one film you need to see this year. And it wouldn't hurt to take some friends as well.
Brave opens with sweeping views of the Scottish countryside before delving into the life of Merida (voice of Kelly MacDonald), a red-haired teenage princess who rides her horse, shoots arrows, and enjoys the outdoors—just as her father, King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly), does. One thing she doesn't enjoy, however, is the constant pressure her mother, Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson), employs to get her to behave like a "typical" princess. These lessons are to be put on display as the lords of the land assemble for an age-old tradition of determining who the princess will marry. The candidates presented by Lords MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson), and Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane) showcase their archery acumen for the princess, but are upstaged by Merida herself as she defies tradition and competes for her own hand. The ensuing struggle with her mother leads Merida to determine if destiny is supposed to be her fate. A jaunt into the forest leads to an encounter that puts that question to the test—and unleashes a bravery Merida never knew existed.
Brave moves at a brisk pace—there's not a lot of time for dialoguing, as Pixar strips the princess story to its essence (with no Prince Charming to be found, this is pretty easy) and brings action to the party—and lots of it—in the second act. In fact, the action is so intense at points that younger children might find it a little too much.
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