The tale, set in Scotland, takes place in a magical time. Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is a young, fiery-haired, and tempered, princess who decides to ignore the wishes of her parents (Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson) by refusing to marry a suitor from a neighbouring clan. Instead she chooses to forge her own path in life.
Destiny is a key theme and the film makes use of numerous Scottish traditions to illustrate this. When Merida is young, she encounters a succession of Will-o’-the-wisps (like blue, mythical fireflies) – according to Scottish folklore, these creatures reveal your destiny – she follows them and this leads to an encounter with a mythical beast known as Mor’du – a moment that shapes her life.
As a Pixar feature directed by an American (Mark Andrews, who does have Scottish roots) the film unsurprisingly deals mostly in national stereotypes. There are numerous jokes about kilts, bagpipes, haggis, red hair, names such as ‘Fergus’, people saying ‘ach’ as a preface to every sentence etc. I worried that it might verge on odious, but in actuality the more raucous laughs emanated from the Scottish contingent of the audience, which was reassuring.
According to Pixar, they’ve pushed the proverbial boat out with their latest feature; this film has been in development since 2004. Thankfully, all the years of hard work appear to have paid off as this is an exquisitely crafted picture in which staggeringly realistic animated characters are framed by jaw-dropping landscapes. In short: it’s a veritable banquet for the eyes.
Here I will interject and say that the 3D is fine, well-integrated and rarely obnoxious, but it adds absolutely nothing and definitely detracts something. Making the film in 3D is a demand that automatically comes from Disney when Pixar make a movie, but the director would have you see the 2D version, so do that. Especially as it’s over 100 minutes, which will give many people headaches.
Pixar features are known for their depth, interlacing jokes and storylines that appeal to kids and adults on multiple levels. Brave is no Toy Story, but it’s not Cars either – ultimately, this is a children’s movie, but it should also be enjoyable for older audience members. The humour is stronger in the first half, dipping as the narrative unfolds, but it remains easy on the eye, pacey and light-hearted throughout.
If you have children, make sure you take them to see Brave. If not, this won’t be the greatest film you’ll see all year, perhaps not even the best animation, but you could do a lot worse with your time and money.
Tom has awarded Brave 4 Torches of Truth.