Review: Brave – a Pixar movie

Princess Merida: I want my freedom!

Queen Elinor: But are you willing to pay the price your freedom will cost?

Last weekend we took the whole crew to see Brave – Pixar’s first fairy tale.  Originally called “The Bear and the Bow”, Brave stars Merida, the first female protagonist in a Pixar film, and is the first Pixar film with their completely redone graphics system.

Merida is a Scottish teenage tomboy princess, with a wild mane of red curls. She has a huge, burly father, a by-the-book mother – loving and kind, but traditional and determined – and 3 mischievous tiny triplet brothers.

Merida is “just not ready” for her impending betrothal (arranged marriage). Merida and her mother, Elinor can’t communicate well; each of them has a valid point of view – but the other can’t see it.  Merida rebels against tradition, and her mother. She wishes to change her fate.

But, wishes can be dangerous things and can turn out not quite as we expect…

Brave is the story of a spirited teenage princess, a mother-daughter relationship, a summer gift from Pixar and Disney, and a treat for your eyes.  The animation is beautiful, amazing, detailed, bright, fresh, bursting with vivid color; in other words, just gorgeous.

Merchandised heavily for months preceding the movie, Brave was released in North America on June 22, 2012 and according to Wikipedia:

“Produced by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.  It was written by Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman and Irene Mecchi, directed by Andrews and Chapman and co-directed by Purcell. The film’s voice cast features Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane and John Ratzenberger. To make the most complex visuals possible, Pixar completely rewrote their animation system for the first time in 25 years.”

***SPOILERS***  Be ye warned…

Merida has reached the age where she is to be betrothed.  The other 3 clans in the land come to take part in the ceremony to earn Merida’s hand in marriage. She chooses archery as the final competition and shoots for her “own hand” – her freedom – and easily bests the 3 Lord’s sons.

Merida and Elinor have a blow-out argument. Merida slashes the family tapestry and then Elinor throws Merida’s bow into the fire (damaging it, before she rescues it).

Following the wisps – “who lead you to your fate” – Merida finds a reluctant, wood-carving witch hidden in the forest. She buys all the witch’s carvings (hmmm, they’re all of bears??) and a potion to change her mother – and to change Merida’s fate. Merida’s intentions are for her Mom to call off the ceremony and the marriage.

Alas, the spell, is more like a curse. The witch’s potion has unexpected results, turning her mother, Elinor into a huge bear. Her family hates bears, as a “devil” bear took her father’s left leg in a fight when Merida was young.

Merida is horrified. Her mother is shocked, scared, and trying desperately to hold onto the last vestiges of decorum and royal manners; the conscious sense of being truly human, not a bear, is slowly slipping away from her. She is sometimes unaware, and comes close to hurting Merida.

Merida and her mother race back to find the witch, but she is gone. A clue is given about the spell, and they race to the castle to fix it before time runs out.

All chaos breaks lose at the castle when Elinor the bear is spotted. She escapes into the woods, pursued by a mob led by Merida’s father. Elinor is captured, and Merida races to mend the tapestry then save her mother.

It turns out the spell was also used once before, many years ago, by a prince – Mor’du – who wanted the strength of 10 men and to change his fate. Unable to stop the spell, it became permanent within 2 days. He became a bear and lost his awareness of his human self. As a result, he destroyed his family, his castle – his entire kingdom was lost.

While Merida is battling her father, to prevent him from harming her mother, Mor’du the demon bear attacks. Merida is in danger, and Elinor breaks free to save her, leading to a fierce fight between the 2 bears.

Brave has a happy ending. Merida and her Mom come to understand each other and become close friends. The issue of her betrothal is resolved as a compromise – let the kids choose who they will love and marry; Merida will marry, and the 3 Lord’s sons will pursue her heart.

And lastly, the demon bear, Mor’du, is finally slain and the soul of the prince is released, for which he is grateful.

Afterwards, I asked everyone what they thought of the movie. All 4 of the kids liked the movie. Comments:

  • “Epic!”
  • “Better than I thought it would be.”
  • “Pretty good”
  • “Not what I expected”

And it led to an interesting debate for us. Was Merida fighting for independence – typical teen rebellion OR was it just a selfish act?

Growing up often means doing things you don’t like to do, or don’t want to do – whether it’s folding laundry, cleaning bathrooms, going to a job you don’t enjoy everyday because you have to pay the bills for your family, or getting betrothed.

Being a princess is not just about pretty pink dresses and tiaras – it’s about duty. It’s about what’s best for the kingdom, regardless of your personal preferences. It’s about responsibility. You are entrusted with a kingdom , a people, that should be healthy, happy, safe, and strong.

What do you do when it’s “what’s good for me vs. what’s good for everyone?”

Brave is recommended for all ages. It’s a little scary in parts involving the demon bear and the bear fight may be frightening to younger kids.

Rated: 9/10

Note:  This review is for the non-3D version; due to family budget constraints, we opted to not see this movie in 3D, but at a regular matinee ($60 for 6 of us).

P.S.  Make sure you stay until the end of the credits, for the final scene!

P.P.S.  Showing right before Brave is the Pixar short, La Luna, directed by Enrico Casarosa. A timeless family classic, La Luna is sweet and simple – perfect for little ones, anywhere in the world.

P.P.P.S. My daughter has asked for a bow for her birthday. I picked up a pink and black youth archery set at Dick’s for less that $30.

Did you see Brave? What did you think?

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