'Brave' a new spin on princess film 0
Number 13 is lucky for the Pixar Animation Studios. Brave, its 13th feature film, is a glorious triumph and a fresh new beginning.
Set in medieval Scotland, Brave is the story of a tomboy princess whose rebelliousness, and a critical error in judgment, makes her mom the thrall of a witch's spell. This embroils her royal family in a clan crisis and initiates a dangerous quest that involves rogue bears, forest sprites and ancient legends.
At its heart, the plot revolves around a mother-and-daughter battle of wills.
In the movie, Princess Merida (voiced wonderfully by Kelly Macdonald) defies her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), over marriage plans. Mom wants to transform her headstrong teen into a traditionally feminine princess so she can be married off to one of her suitors. In Merida's eye, and in ours, these suitors from the other clans are all clown princes. Even Merida's father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), is amused, admiring Merida's spirit and enjoying the chaos it sparks. But he is a lovable idiot more than a legendary leader. The Queen is more steadfast.
Fearless Merida also shows off her skills in archery and horseback riding, attributes which will prove useful on the quest. She is smarter and braver than the boys. The movie is a testament to femme power.
As an unabashed cartoon, kid-friendly comedy is emphasized. This is especially true in early passages, when the family and clan relationships are worked out. Merida has younger brothers -- mischievous triplets -- who keep the slapstick stuff going. This should appeal to boys in the audience. The overall design of all of the human characters also veers towards caricature over photo-realism.
Yet Brave is not just a cartoon. There is gorgeous artwork that delights the eye, bringing the real Scottish highlands to life in the backgrounds. Meanwhile, the fairytale structure unleashes wild adventure and thrills, with an undertow of pathos. Great voice performances from Macdonald, Connolly, Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd and Craig Ferguson -- plus Julie Walters as the Witch -- bring depth and dynamism to the piece.
Macdonald in particular deserves special attention. While Connolly & company supply the crazy humour, much of it ad-libbed, Macdonald grounds the saga.
Merida is being added to the roster of Disney Princesses. Based on Brave, she does not exactly belong. Instead, Merida is unique, a great role model for girls who are not just waiting for Prince Charming to ride in and sweep them off their feet.
This film is rated PG
Quick facts about ‘Brave’
Brave is the 13th feature film in a 17-year run by Pixar, now part of Disney. Facts about this Scottish fairytale:
-- Pixar head John Lasseter says the studio's good-luck charm, Cheers veteran John Ratzenberger, does another cameo but won't say when. Spoiler alert: Check out the castle guards.
-- The Pizza Planet truck, which delivered pizza pies in Toy Story, is back again. It went missing only in The Incredibles. Spoiler alert: Look around the Witch's hut.
-- Voice talent Kelly Macdonald, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters and Emma Thompson all appeared in Harry Potter movies, most notably Coltrane as Hagrid.
-- Walters, voice of the Witch, is English (with some Irish heritage). Macdonald and Coltrane are pure Scots. Thompson's mom, Phyllida Law, was born in Glasgow. Other featured Glaswegians are Billy Connolly and Craig Ferguson while Kevin McKidd is from Elgin in the north. They all tone down their Scottish brogue.
-- The clan kilts are anachronistic. While the movie is set in medieval times, the kilt originated in the 16th century. The Brave tartan is now officially registered.
-- The movie's ancient stone circle is based on the Callanish Stones of the Outer Hebrides. Ultravox featured Callanish on the cover of its 1984 album, Lament.
-- Brave's heroine, Merida, is the first Disney Princess to originate at Pixar.