The digital wizards at Pixar have an incredible dossier of Academy award-winning animated films. Their latest film “Brave“, is a prime example of the bold new direction for the company behind such classics as “Finding Nemo“, “Toy Story“, “The Incredible’s“, and “Monsters, Inc.” just to name a few. This time out Scotland provides the setting for the animation masters to weave their magic, and they do in a splendid 3-D feast of sight, sound, and color that captures the breathtaking beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
For Princess Merida (Kelly Madonald), life is filled with joy and frustration. As the daughter to King Fergus (Billy Connolly), and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), she has to walk a fine line between the duties and expectation of her mother and her freewheeling lifestyle of daring and adventure. The young Princess is content to ride through the countryside astride her horse Angus, and perfect her already admirable archery skills.
When Merida learns that her parents have summoned the other major clans so that a worthy suitor can be chosen, Merida rebels openly at their plan and causes great embarrassment to her family during a competition. In a fit of rebellious anger, Merida rides into the woods, and comes upon a witch who promises to create for the young princess a spell that will forever change her destiny. Although not done out of malice, the spell has some on expected consequences that threatens the future of the kingdom as well as the safety of Merida’s family.
The film has some outstanding performances, not the least of which is Connolly, who was an absolute delight whenever his character was on screen. Supporting work by Craig Ferguson and Robbie Coltrane complement the leads well. Since my mother is a Scot, I am all-too-familiar with not only the history but culture of Scotland. I had been concerned when I first heard the project that it would play up on certain stereotypes and miss the true complexity and splendor of Scotland and its people, as well as it’s extremely rich history which is filled with numerous technical and literary achievements over the centuries.
Thankfully my concerns were allayed very early in the film not simply because of the amazing visual detail of the movie but also because of the lovable but quirky characters. The writers and animators managed to capture the very nature of the people and the culture, which is no easy thing in an animated film. Kudos for the casting of the mostly Scottish cast who played their roles with relish. I can honestly say hearing King Fergus address the clans brought to mind my aunts, uncles and cousins thanks to the distinct Scottish brogue. I especially liked the fact that when conflict erupted (of course) amongst even the best of friends, there are some very clever ways that laughs were gained without turning the characters into buffoons or being overly cute.
While the film plays it fairly safe with the story, Pixar’s first female heroine gives us a very fun and enjoyable tale that offers something for the entire family without talking down to the audience or having to resort to crude humor. A few scenes may be a bit intense for youngsters and while it will not be cited for any technological breakthroughs Brave, nonetheless, is highly entertaining.
4 stars out of 5