A lot has already been said about how Brave features Pixar’s first female lead in Merida and how the film is the company’s first attempt at fitting the “Disney Princess mold.” With that obvious step forward and possible step backward, not to mention the added pressure of the Pixar brand, Brave had a lot of baggage going in. How could any film live up to those expectations? Here’s the thing, it does, and does well, however because of the way Disney’s treating spoilers, I have to kind of dance around how it does it.
Brave focuses on Princess Merida, a Scottish princess in the kingdom of DunBroch. She’s been groomed by her mother all her life to be a perfect, lady-like princess (and eventually a queen), but she wants none of it. According to her father, King Fergus, she just wants to “let my hair flow in the wind as I ride through the glen firing arrows into the sunset.” (Whether she’d use those words or not, who knows.) But she sure as hell doesn’t want the eldest sons of the three other clans competing for her hand in marriage. Her father understands her, but also understands tradition, so he leaves it to her mother, Elinor, to explain. Merida and her mother have never seen eye-to-eye on anything, especially not this. And after a particularly huge fight, the young princess storms out. While running away, she encounters a witch woodcarver and makes a deal for a spell to change her fate, and like all supernatural deals it doesn’t exactly go as planned.
And that’s the end of the first act, and about as far as I can really give anything concrete which is a shame because here’s where the movie really starts to get going. Here’s where the hook of the film actually is, but Disney doesn’t really want anyone talking about it.
The rest of the film, as you expect, concerns itself with how Merida and her mother better their… let’s say strained relationship. However, you probably don’t see the way this happens coming. Trust me. It’s handled really well though, despite being a conceit that seems like it could wear thin quickly. There are some really wonderful character moments that show how different these women are and how much they underestimate what they can learn from each other.
Brave is filled with these character beats for the whole cast, like how Merida’s father loses his leg in a fight with a bear in the opening scene and is later referred to as “the Bear King” because he kills every bear he sees.
It’s hard to ignore what Pixar’s done here in making Brave‘s lead a tomboy princess who excels at archery and mountain climbing and is offended by the idea of not making her own choices in life. This is a princess that should be looked up to not only by little girls, but by little boys as well. Hell, the other Disney Princesses should want to be Merida when they grow up. She’s a genuine bad-ass who makes very human mistakes that she has to deal with the fallout from – a rare thing to find in any character, male or female.
I cannot recommend this movie enough. Go see it with your kids, go see it without kids, just go see it.
I give Brave 8.75 WOODCARVINGS out of 10.
Oh yea, stay through the credits and if you watched the Japanese trailer, that’s a whole different movie.