Pixar is long overdue for a feature with a strong female character at its center. Now that she’s arrived, it’s clear that she deserves better.
“Brave” is beautiful to look at, as you would expect given the technical and artistic standard the animation behemoth has set. Set in the wilds of Scotland, the company’s 13th feature is full of lush, green forests and dramatic, rolling hills, all of which appears even more idyllic bathed in a delicate, mystical sunlight.
Our heroine, the feisty and free-spirited Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), has a finely detailed mane of long, red curls that look so bouncy and soft, they’ll make you want to roll around in them, then maybe take a little nap. And the story begins promisingly enough with our heroine — an avid archer — leaping onto her valiant steed and taking a thunderous ride through the countryside.
She’s obviously a character with a mind of her own, one who has no apprehension about breaking the rules — which is why it’s such a shame that the film itself feels so old-fashioned and safe. The script, credited to co-directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman as well as Steve Purcell and Irene Mecchi, revisits several familiar Disney character types and themes: a princess in a long-ago kingdom who pays an ill-fated visit to a witch, a spell that changes everything and needs to be broken, and the misunderstandings and danger that ensue.
After beginning in thrilling fashion, “Brave” turns rather silly and slapsticky really rather quickly.
But the movie does boast a strong voice cast, including Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson as Merida’s parents, the king and queen.
“Brave” becomes a well-worn cautionary tale about being careful of what you wish for, as a trip to see a toothless, whiskered old witch in a hidden cottage (voiced by Julie Walters) changes much more than Merida bargained for.
We won’t reveal the transformation here, but suffice it to say that it’s something more complicated than true love’s kiss can undo.
The movie itself, however, never changes back to its original form. If Merida herself had been in charge, she probably would have wanted to shake things up a little more.
Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Starring Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd
English with Indonesian subtitles