The Homeless Nerd Reviews:
At a glance- animated, for kids but enjoyable for grown-ups too, all about family
What is it? I've seen every Pixar movie so far and I've enjoyed every one of them. So I was looking forward to seeing Brave and finding out if they could continue to make exceptional films. Set in a kind-of medieval Ireland / Scotland, Brave is one of the few Pixar movies that focuses on people (instead of monsters, cars, bugs, fish or robots). So I guess it's not surprising that the story is all about family, and the joys and trials that come with them.
As a longtime fan of anime (japanese animation) I'm used to the idea that an animated film can have intelligent, mature storylines and not just be kid fluff. Pixar has done a great job of that, creating movies that may be animated but that adults can enjoy right along with the kids. I remember an interview once with one of the creators of Bugs Bunny (think it was Chuck Jones) where he said that they were not trying to make an kids cartoon, they just wanted to make things they (as adults) thought were funny. As a kid I loved that, since most kids cartoons felt like they were talking down to me (GI Joe loses some appeal when you realize that it is impossible to jump out of a helicopter with a parachute and not be killed or maimed). My digression is just to point out that even though this is an animated film, it is not just for kids. As a 30-something year old I enjoyed the movie.
The acting- The vast majority of how we communicate is by body language, so doing an animated film is hard for an actor. You have to sell the role by your mannerisms, inflection and style – and match the character's look and movements created by the animators. I felt that all the voices were superb. As the main character, Princess Merida, actress Kelly Macdonald has a great voice. She is full of fire and determination and youthful rebellion.
Emma Thompson voices the mother, Queen Elinor, overflowing with prim and proper reserve. Meanwhile her husband, King Fergus, is voiced by Billy Connolly and he steals the show. His voice acting is perfect as the rough and tumble yet loving king/father. He was a joy to listen to. Lastly Julie Waters has a short role as The Witch granting Merida a wish that turns everyone's lives upside-down.
And though they don't have any speaking parts, Merida's three little brothers are fun and funny to watch. A great job was done by the animators bringing them to life as little hellions.
The story- Teenage rebellion is the heart of the story, with Merida a wild tomboy princess who is constantly butting heads with her prim and proper mother. They have the archetypical mother/daughter conflict. Things come to a head when Merida learns that she is to be married – and she has no say over who her future husband will be. A contest is held with the sons of each clan participating and the winner getting the fair, and fiery, maiden's hand. Merida interferes in the contest, and things rapidly go downhill from there.
You can't have a proper fantasy fairy-tale without a witch, and here the story takes a bit of an unexpected turn. Normally when dealing with witches/magic a character manages to change themselves, but here instead Merida's wish ends up changing others around her. It is a bit of a break from traditional storytelling, and it works wonderfully. By harming those around her, Merida has to face responsibility and guilt, thinking about other's lives instead of her own. It increases the dramatic tension nicely. Otherwise, there is the usual adventure, misunderstandings, scares, obligatory monster, and eventual reconciliation. Brave is not quite a radically new story, like Wall-E or Finding Nemo, but it is very enjoyable. I think Pixar did another good job, and I look forward to their next film.
My recommendation- I'm sure every mother and daughter will find at least one moment they can relate to, or if you just want some happy warm fuzzy feelings about family, go see this movie.