FlixChatter Review: BRAVE

Whenever I go see a film at the cinema, there’s a certain expectation to be swept away by the experience. With Pixar, that little slice of cinematic heaven always begins with the short movie attached at the beginning of the film. In this case, La Luna truly is magical. I think the terms ‘over the moon’ is aptly used here to describe how I feel about it. Fortunately, that state of untrammeled delight didn’t stop when the feature film started.

As I said in my Top Ten Pixar characters list, the strength of Pixar films have always been the beguiling characters and in that regard, Pixar delivers again here. Right from the opening sequence, I was captivated by the DunBroch family: Dad Lord Fergus, Mum Lady Elinor, and the adorable young princess with the most glorious red ringlets and big blue eyes, Princess Merida. Her love for archery began at a very young age, the moment her father gave her a set of bow and arrow, despite her mother’s protest.

Merida isn’t your typical princess, and that’s what I LOVE about her. The 16-year-old is very much a tomboy who’d rather ride her horse Angus into the woods whilst shooting arrows expertly as she’s riding, climbing rocks in the Scottish Highlands and drink from a majestic waterfalls. That’s the only time when she feels free, free from all the pressure of being a princess and the responsibilities that come with it. Like a typical teenager, she clashes most with her strict mother who wants her to be a proper princess with perfect decorum. Queen Elinor has high hopes for Merida, and that includes planning her daughter’s marriage with the three neighboring clans, which also serves as a peace offering to keep the clans in harmony.

Despite her mother’s insistence about the importance of this betrothal, it’s no surprise that the free-spirited Merida protests such a plan. On the day of the event where each of the clan’s first-born is to fight for her hand, Merida defies her mother by claiming that she too would ‘fight for her own hand.’ That does it, the war between Merida and her mother is full-on.

The first act of Brave feels familiar, I guess some of the scenes have been shown on the trailer, so there’s not much of a surprise there up until she runs away into the forest and encounters those will-o’-the-wisp, the blue ghostly lights seen flickering over marshes and fens, which her mother once told Merida that they can lead a person to her destiny. Those lights lead Merida to the mysterious circle of standing stones which then reveals a witch’s house. I’m glad I hadn’t read any spoilers of the movie as I was completely surprised by what becomes of that spell Merida requests from the witch. But let’s just say that the result causes quite a bit of chaos… and the very second the transformation happens, hilarity ensues.

What surprises me most about this movie is how funny it is. I guess I know that Pixar’s movies are usually whimsical and playful, but Brave is downright hilarious and seems to get funnier as the movie progresses. Merida’s own carrot-topped triplet brothers are the ultimate scene stealers as you can’t help but laugh every time they appear. These rambunctious trio are always up to mayhem, making mischief on their dad’s wooden leg or tirelessly chasing after pastries, much to the chagrin of those poor kitchen maids. The betrothal archery race itself is a hoot, full of wonderfully quirky characters and all kinds of side-splitting hysterics. But the funniest bit involves Merida and a big black bear in the castle. I have never laughed so hard from start to finish watching a movie, my stomach was literally sore after the film but oh, so much joy!

But beneath all that rip-roaring humor, there’s a poignant and heartfelt story about the celebration of family. The underlying theme in Brave is a love story, but not between a Prince and a Princess, but between a mother and a daughter. That alone makes the story unique, but another thing that sets this movie apart from other classic fairy tales is the absence of a *villain.* Nothing against classic good vs evil plots, but it’s so refreshing to see a fairy tale without a stereotypical villain hellbent on destroying a kingdom or jealous of the princess’ beauty. No love interest either, thank you very much, no Prince necessary to *complete* the Princess’ life. In relation to that mind-numbingly generic title, Merida is brave not because she’s able to kill some dragon or what have you, but she’s brave because she’s got the courage to fight for what she believes in, and she’s also not afraid to own up to her mistake.

There’s not a boring moment whilst watching Brave. If I wasn’t laughing at the shenanigans around the DunBroch Kingdom or getting caught up in Merida’s action adventure, I was marveling at the amazing visuals. This movie practically doubles as a Scotland tourism video as the Scottish Highlands looks absolutely breathtaking. The wonderful Celtic-themed score by Patrick Doyle enhances the mood even more, they certainly made a great choice in hiring the Scottish-born composer whose work I admire. The soundtrack would certainly make my top five.

The lush nature cinematography gives us an earthy yet mystical forest but keeping the human characters more comical-looking (facial features are rounder with exaggerated eyes) adds to the charm. What’s perhaps more beautiful than the Scottish landscape is Merida’s hair, especially when it’s blowing in the wind. I could devote an entire blog just on her untamed, bright red locks. Apparently Pixar had to upgrade to a new software to create that perfect special effect for her hair, and that certainly paid off as it’s as iconic as Steve Jobs’ black turtlenecks. Btw, speaking of Jobs, Brave was dedicated to the company’s founder, who died during the production of the movie.

I have to mention the wonderful voice cast in this movie, especially Kelly MacDonald who did a great job bringing the princess to life. Billy Connolly is perfectly cast as Lord Fergus and his comedic talents is put to good use in this role. Emma Thompson also did a great job doing a Scottish brogue as Elinor.

Final Thoughts: A lot of the critics say that this falls short from being a Pixar classic. Now, I don’t know what the definition of a *classic* is, but if that means something I wouldn’t mind watching this over and over again for years to come then I think it fits into that category. Ok so the plot perhaps isn’t as tight as other Pixar’s masterpieces like Finding Nemo and the Toy Story franchise, perhaps because of the many directors involved (Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell are all credited in the movie) But still, it’s a solid movie that offers a great deal of entertainment and fun adventure. Funny, heartwarming, with beautiful sound and stunning visuals to marvel at, really, what’s not to love? I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish, in fact, I like this more overall than the more celebrated UP.

Brave reminds me of all the wonderful things about those Disney fairy tales I saw growing up, but with something more… much, much more.

4.5 out of 5 reels

Did you see BRAVE? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the movie.

61 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: BRAVE

  1. Great review, Ruth. This is exactly as I rated it. Yesterday was one of those rare times when the whole of my small clan, plus one, were in the same theater watching the same film. The mother-daughter dynamic, one that I get see (and sometimes umpire) firsthand, is its strength. No question. When Merida comes up with that specific idea to (hem) “change her fate” through a certain ‘wood carver’, I audibly heard my wife *grasp* out loud (so into it by this point in the movie — and that doesn’t happen a lot). My daughter, who also has a three-syllable first name, and her mother looked at each other very differently when this Pixar film was over. BRAVE was delightful (which sounds dismissive, but surely isn’t). I’ll be seeing this one again, and soon. Thanks for this.

    1. Wahoo! That is awesome that you saw it with your whole ‘clan’ 😀 This movie made me miss my mother so much, I bet your wife and daughter appreciates this movie for the wonderful depiction of their relationship.

      Delightful is not dismissive, I mean it really is a joyful film that is hilarious and poignant. Yes, I’d be seeing it again as well, and for sure I’ll order the BD 😀

  2. Glad you liked it a lot Ruth. I gave it an A myself.

    Comparisons to the other PIxar flicks are inevitable, and perhaps unfair… if people see it for what it is, its a funny, charming, heartfelt flick. It may not break a lot of new ground, but it’s very good at what it does.

    Nice write up, hey 😉

    1. High five, Fogs! Yeah, I think the comparison is unfair, besides it’s such a different film from what Pixar’s done in the past so you really can’t compare ’em. Nothing wrong w/ treading into familiar territory, and I actually think there’s still a lot of fresh stuff in here that separates it from other fairy tale movies.

      Thanks man!

  3. You seem to show a lot of enthusiasm for this Ruth. That’s great to see as many others have expressed a dissapointment. I’m still dying to see it though. I hope I enjoy it as much as you. Great review.

    1. I am enthusiastic because it’s GOOD, Mark. As you know I’m already partial to Scottish things ahah, but Pixar has crafted a story and characters that are simply wonderful. As a Scot, you MUST see this one. You might not like it as much as I do (though I hope you would), but it’s still a stellar movie worth seeing on the big screen. Oh and bring your wife and daughter with you, surely 😀

      1. Haha! It’s your fondness for all things Scottish that leave me pleased you enjoyed this. I will definitely be going to see it over the school holidays but my wife and daughter will sadly be staying at home. There are many dishes to wash. Lol. 😉

        1. Your wife and daughter have to stay home to wash dishes whilst you’re at the movies??? Tsk, tsk, tsk Mark, I’m very disappointed in you mate! No, take ’em to see this movie, you’d be glad you did! 😀

          1. Sometimes I like to entertain the thought that I actually have a say. In reality, I’ll need to beg them to take me with them. Can’t wait though, I think they will show me leniency 😀

            1. Ahah, then you’ll identify closely with Lord Fergus. Lady Elinor wears the pants in the family, so to speak 🙂 Seriously Mark, you HAVE to see this one w/ your whole clan, the message about family is wonderful.

              1. It’s often my whole clan get the chance to go to the cinema ttogether but this will definitely be one of those occasions. As far as I’m aware it’s not released here yet but I’ll be keeping an eye on it. Cheers Ruth.

  4. I wasn’t blown away by this but it has a certain charm to it that I’m actually thinking of going to watch it for a second time in the cinemas. There’s nothing interesting opening this week where I live so this could keep me occupied until Spiderman comes out.

    1. Glad you like it well enough to see it a second time, Asrap. So if that isn’t a sign of being blown away, then I don’t know what is 😉

  5. Ted S.

    My sister took my niece to see it over the weekend and they both loved it, apparently my niece cried near the end of the movie because she thought it was sad?

    Didn’t know there were three directors working on this movie, that’s way too many cooks in the kitchen.

    1. Oh, it’s probably ’cause she was moved by it. It has some emotional moments here, no doubt. But you’d be crying from laughter, too 🙂

  6. Brilliant Ruth, so glad to hear a review this positive! Really want to catch this on the big screen and you’ve made me even more excited. Can’t wait for the visuals even if the story isn’t the best of Pixar’s. Not sure if I’m more excited about La Luna though!

    1. I’m literally gushing aren’t I? But seriously Pete, I really do love this movie, I don’t care what the critics who knock this one are seeing, maybe we saw a different movie?? [shrug]

  7. Really looking forward to seeing this one. I’m trying my best to avoid spoilers…nearly as tough as when the Harry Potter books were coming out.

    1. It was tough to avoid the spoiler as I’m reviewing this, but I think it’s best if people go in not knowing what it’s all about as I was pleasantly surprised when it happened. Love it!

      1. I think I already know the spoiler (damn seeing fan art), but I’m going to just pretend I don’t know anything and hope I forget by 3 August!

  8. Mary

    Hey Ruth,
    Read your full review and all the comments – no way am I missing this one. Love this blog by the way – really lively and interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Mary! I’m thrilled to hear you’ll see it with your daughters, especially since they’re redheads too, and one of ’em is close to Merida’s age. Thanks for the kind words about my blog, that means so much coming from you 😀

  9. I LOVE this review! I agree with absolutely everything. Especially the first thing you said. La Luna swept me away like nothing I’ve ever seen before. And Brave was just as good!

    1. Wahoo! Glad to hear, Stevee. I really don’t mind watching this again, that La Luna thing just looks soooo cute!! That little boy looks like a Precious Moments figurine!

    1. Thanks matey! Oh I hope you enjoy this, especially since you have two girls! I know they’d love Merida, she is just adorable! And Lynn would probably tear up watching the mother/daughter relationship between Elinor and Merida. Glad to hear you had a nice break!

  10. I too loved La Luna, what a wonderful short movie. About Brave, there are several things I loved about it but not for some points. I think if I saw it as a kid, I’ll love it anyway. The mother and daughter relationship is basic but nice to see. I guess Pixar have made some standards, so we expected it to be like it for some reason.

    1. Glad you like La Luna. Well, I do think this meets Pixar’s standards, whatever that is. I don’t think it’s fair to compare this one to other films they’ve done in the past as it’s quite different from those. As far as fairy tales genre go, I think Pixar has created something that’s fresh and unique from what I saw from Disney. That’s what I think anyway, I love this one seeing it as a 37-year-old adult.

  11. I’m debating whether i want to see this today.I mean it doesn’t look bad, and my local theater does have its discount today but considering i don’t have a job yet i’m not sure whether i want to save my money for something that really interests me

    1. I hear ya Julian. Well if this isn’t something you’re hugely interested in, then maybe save it for The Dark Knight Rises? I’m sure you’re interested in that one, right? 😉

      1. Yeah. I mean tickets are only 3 dollars at Tuesday at my local theater and i do have some money saved up, but i remember last summer i ended up going through pretty much all my savings seeing movies. Plus if i see the Dark knight Rises in theaters i would like to see it in full Imax glory, so that’s another factor.

        1. 3 bucks for new releases? Wow that’s a bargain! How ’bout seeing it at the IMAX at your cinema, so not the *real* IMAX, y’know, that might be cheaper.

  12. Hmm…well when you put it like that, then I guess I might have to check Brave out after all. I think Pixar does great work and wish that other genre (horror, action, documentaries, etc.) studios followed suit with showing short films before features, like the film festivals do; but I tend to wait and rent a lot of animated movies…especially when they look like they are promoted to a kid audience…or maybe it’s just me in thinking that it would be awkward for me to go watch a movie like Brave if I don’t have any kids, lol.

    I like the strength of a leading female character, especially here with the story of this young girl who is trying to come into her own while her surroundings is trying to influence her in another direction. What I find most refreshing with Brave (from what I’ve watched in the movie trailer) is the support that she seems to have from her father, who encourages her to be herself, even if that means not following the “princess” expectations that her environment has laid out for her.

    1. Yes do check it out, I really can’t recommend it enough. I think most Pixar movies are stunning to see on the big screen and this one especially so. Oh no, I don’t have kids either, but my hubby and I enjoyed it immensely. So do the adults around us who also didn’t have kids with them.

      Yep, that’s exactly how her relationship with her father is. Lord Fergus is very laid back, which I think is quite common w/ real parents, as one parent is usually stricter than the other.

  13. I’m glad you liked it, Ruth. It’s nice when a movie meets up to expectations. For me, as you know, I felt more like the second .gif image you posted with the faceplanting palm! ha. Just went way into left field from what was expected and took away from my enjoyment because it didn’t seem to fully commit to the mysticism and magic and teetered between a story like Shrek/Little Mermaid and How to Train Your Dragon/Finding Nemo.

    better than average, but not by much for me. Did you stay for the after credits scene?

    1. Oh come on, can’t be THAT bad, T. I guess we’d have to agree to disagree on this one. The mysticism is just enough for me without going overboard, I was completely caught up in the joy and hilarity of it all.

      Yeah, that after credit scene was neat! I had forgotten that she bought all that stuff from the witch but when it showed up it was such a hoot!

  14. I haven’t seen it yet but I plan to. I live a stone’s throw away from Dunottar castle (apparently the one they used as a model for the castle in the film) so I’m interested in how they realise the romantic preconception of Scotland. Better than UP? Well I think I’m the only person in the world who hated UP so it wouldn’t be difficult in my view to be any worse. (Haven’t seen Cars or Cars 2 though)!

    1. Hi Russell! Wow, you live near Dunottar Castle??! How cool is that!

      Glad to hear someone else who isn’t keen on UP. I only like the first half hour of the film (especially the marriage scene) and there are some funny moments throughout but overall I didn’t really like it. It’s one of those Pixar films I don’t really want to watch again. Haven’t seen Cars or Cars 2 either but not really interested in them.

  15. Wow, great to hear you enjoyed this one so much, Ruth! We will be seeing this one soon, probably this weekend, and your review has me thinking I might actually enjoy another Pixar movie after all! 😀

    1. Hi Eric, hope you enjoy this one. Since you haven’t seen too many Pixar films, perhaps you’ll go in with a neutral expectations 🙂

  16. Lovely review! I will definetly catch the movie in theatres in July, the thing that makes me most impresses besides Merida’s hair it’s the animation – when I’m watching trailers all of the landscapes look so realistic it’s almost impossible for them to be created on the computer. What a gorgeous work.

    1. Thanks Sati. Yes do see this on the big screen, it looks magnificent. The landscapes do look so realistic, it’s as if they combine real footage instead of just CGI. Gorgeous indeed.

  17. Ah, reality. Women can have what they want but there will be sacrifices along the way. This is where the young princess must truly learn what it means to be brave.

  18. Great review, Ruth! You really loved this one, huh? It’s great when a film inspires so much passion and makes us feel so happy. I’m looking forward to this one, as with any Pixar release.

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  20. Awesome review, Ruth! And I loved the fact that you mentioned the soundtrack, because they were just brilliant! I’ve been dying to get my hands on them songs!

    Anyway, this movie is beyond adorable! To be honest, I had no clue what this movie was about because the trailer pretty much gave away nothing. Hell, I didn’t even know this movie was going to center around the ever-so-complicated mother-daughter relationship! So when I say this movie was a ride, I mean it. A crazy and fun ride filled with laughter. I’m not saying this is a flawless one, but it’s wonderful nonetheless. This is like…Disney’s Mulan: Scotland edition 😛

    PS. Merida’s hair reminded me of my own when I was a kid. Curly, with a life of its own.

    1. Ha..ha.. Mulan, Scotland edition, too funny, Wulan! I can’t remember about Mulan but I remember liking it. I like Brave a lot better though, but then again I love all things Scottish, ahah, a lot of my fave actors are from that region.

      I think curly hair is adorable, I have stick straight hair so naturally I’m envious of people who have THAT much hair! 😀

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