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.