This is a tough one to review.
On the one hand, “Brave” has the splendor of a Disney animated fairy tale, but on the other, it doesn’t offer the game-changing spectacle that we’ve come to expect from Pixar.
This looks more Disney than Pixar.
And since I’ve set a higher bar for Pixar, I guess I’m slightly disappointed. It’s still a wonderful movie, but any number of studios could have done it. It simply doesn’t stand out.
“Brave” is the story of Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a Scottish lass who is highly independent and as stubborn as a mule. She’s become an accomplished archer, loves to frolic through the forest on her trusty steed, has no fear — and no interest in becoming the bride of some nobleman’s son.
Her parents are a bit frustrated, but admire their daughter’s fiery personality and her desire to find her own path. However, they still believe she must conform to the traditions that have been a part of their history for generations.
Her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), is especially worried as her daughter fights her every step of the way.
So when Merida meets a witch (Julie Walters) in the forest who claims she has a magic spell that will change Merida’s mother, Merida happily agrees, thinking this is just what she needs to get her mom off her back.
In the meantime, the neighboring clans have arrived, each with a prince in need of a wife. King Fergus (Billy Connolly) hosts the gathering, which includes the chunky Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), the cranky Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and the crude Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane).
It is decided that an archery contest will be held to see which prince will win the hand of the princess, but Merida has other ideas and attempts to sabotage the competition so she can be left alone.
With the clans in chaos and the witch’s spell finally taking hold, Merida must try to figure out how to reverse the curse and somehow bring the clans back together without her having to marry one of the goofy princes.
It’s a nice little tale about how a young woman fights for self-determination, but it also has a fairly dark side as an angry, old monster bear lurks on the outskirts of the kingdom, ready to exact his vengeance on the king and his family.
“Brave” has a nice mix of the comedic and the dramatic, but it lacks that earthshaking moment, that gut-wrenching realization, that wonderfully emotional heart tug that has become the cornerstone for all things Pixar (aside from the “Cars” films).
It simply feels too “Disney” — something that was once high praise but is now just a pat on the back for something well above average.