Review of Disney/Pixar’s “Brave”

Photo courtesy of Disney.

The prospect of screening the latest Disney/Pixar contrivance, “Brave,” piqued my curiosity. I was looking forward to the stunning 3D animation and clever dialogue Pixar is known for based on classics  like “Finding Nemo,” “Up,” and, of course, the “Toy Story” trilogy.

And this is precisely what I got watching “Brave!”

The superb voice cast of this latest Disney/Pixar animated film is provided by Emma Thompson (“Nanny McPhee” ) as Queen Elinor, Billy Connolly as King Fergus, and Kelly Mcdonald as Merida, the fiery-haired princess who refuses to adhere to the tradition of arranged marriage, and who continually fights with her mother to gain control of her fate. Many parents with teenage daughters will likely relate to the frequent mother-daughter repartees.

“Brave” Red Carpet Premier. Photo provided to me by Disney.

“Brave” is about Princess Merida, a teenager through and through, who would rather shoot bows and arrows at targets than sit on her throne awaiting her Knight in Shining Armor— and who never materializes in this film.  Merida is presented with a trio of unsuitable suitors who resemble the Three Stooges (one of the bozos is a spoof of “Braveheart”), and she rebels by abandoning the presentation ceremony escaping into the lush Scottish forest on her loyal steed, Angus.  There, she encounters a witch who grants her a spell which transforms her mother, the Queen, literally into a momma bear.

The main character of this daring take on the traditional Disney princess film is an intrepid royal maiden who is different in many ways; she’s spunky, athletic, bold, and headstrong. But what little girls will immediately notice is that instead of sporting long flowing hair and a shiny tiara, Merida sprouts a fire-red mane of curls that remain untamed the entire film. (In fact, the crisp graphics and impeccable 3D imagery are so stunning in this film, that they made me want to reach out and touch the girl’s curly locks more than once!)

If you’re expecting to see the traditional Disney princess, you won’t find it in this movie. This film does not resemble previous Disney princess movies; the dresses aren’t voluminous or sparkly, and the castle looks dingy and gritty. But the main character’s intense personality, and the stream of funny lines and antics make up for the unsweetened portrayal of a different kind of damsel in distress.

There’s a lot in this film to please boys as well. Besides the brawny and boorish male characters, there’s a funny but crass scene baring an army of butts which will certainly solicit some giggles. There are also a few very dark and frightening scenes in this movie; one involves a witch, and another a terrifying grizzly bear who roars more like a lion! These scary parts of the film are signature Disney moments about overcoming obstacles. So be aware of this before you take your 5 and-under kids and place 3D glasses on them magnifying these menacing scenes.

The hour and 40 minute kids’ film went by like a whisp! The quick-moving dialogue has something for every age in the family. Though the heavy Scottish accent might be a bit hard for tykes to understand, there are plenty of visuals and slap stick to make up for this.

I appreciated the different take on the Disney stereotype princess adventure, and that it focused on a mother-daughter relationship and the delicate bonds which can be insensitively broken by the willfulness of teenage hormones, but repaired by living through the consequences of misguided actions and learning from  them.

Though the film many not become a blockbuster like other Pixar films, it is one worth braving the crowds for.

“Brave” opens June 22 in theaters and is rated PG.

Run Time: 100 minutes

Disclosure: I was invited to attend this movie screening by the studio. All opinions and reviews are my own.

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