Brave (2012) Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell. Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson. IMDB says: “Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.“
Before Brave even started, as per usual, Pixar had a little short before starting the movie. ‘La Luna’ is a funny and gorgeous film about a grandfather, father, and a son, who work on maintaining the moon. It’s another delightful and interesting take on Pixar’s understanding of how our world works. For me, this short rates as my second favorite right after ‘Day & Night’. But now to our feature presentation…
Brave is a coming of age tale about Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) who decides she’s getting tired of everyone telling her what to do and who to be so she decides to go out and change her fate. The title of Pixar’s latest couldn’t be a more accurate description of what surprised and delighted me all while making me laugh out loud. It’s been some time since we’ve seen a Pixar film (A Bug’s Life, Monster’s Inc.) that’s heavier on the jokes than it is on the emotional tones (Toy Story 3, Up) that reduce grown men to tears. Instead, I was nearly brought to tears by the slapstick humor embodied by all the characters, but most notably, the triplets Harris, Hubert, and Hamish. Their constant shenanigans coupled with Princess Merida’s father King Fergus (a fantastic performance by Billy Connolly) keep you laughing anytime they are on the screen. What delighted me was the tone this film took as compared to other Pixar films. Most Pixar films are visually exuberant and have a bit of a cartoonish vibe, and I don’t look at that as a negative. It keeps the audiences attention while immersing you in a world that is appealing to the eye. But Pixar grounded this film a bit, sticking to natural and basic tones in their first ever “period piece” set in a mythical medieval Scotland. Seeing the beauty of the forests and the depth and detail on the castles captivated me and even had me hoping for a ‘Game of Thrones’ reference but ultimately settling for a ‘Pizza Planet’ reference.
What did surprise me was how this film’s twist and even opening scenes introduced much darker elements than what we’re used to seeing in not only Pixar Films, but kids films as a whole. There are even some fight scenes that come across as intense and down right frightening to the point where children were crying (poor kid behind me asked to go home). Most of that is due to the colors and tones Pixar chose to stick with for this film while the rest has to deal with the content of what happens during the films twist. I’m not going to spoil the twist but I will say I was and wasn’t surprised, at the same time, by not only the twist, but also the events that happened afterwards and how the conflict resolves itself.
Patrick Doyle’s soundtrack with all it’s Scottish flair jumps and dances its way around the film as it warmly invties us into the castle and provides us with a moments hesitation as Princess Merida goes gallivanting into the forests shooting arrows through our hesitation. A few vocal tracks by Julie Fowlis peek in here and there set an even grander stage for this new folklore. I got a chance to see this in 3D and I must reiterate, Disney knows how to do 3D right. Giving a greater depth perception into this world has become a standard but it really comes adds to the story, especially in the second half when things take a turn. I recommend seeing this in theaters, and if possible, in 3D.