From the makers of UP, Wall-E and Toy Story 3 comes Brave, the new Disney/Pixar film directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. This is Andrew’s second picture as a director. For Pixar, he has helped write story lines, although this is far and away his biggest film to date. Brenda Chapman, on the other hand, was the first woman to direct a major studio’s animated feature when she took the reins, along with two other directors, to make The Prince of Egypt for DreamWorks Animation.
The animated story is set in Scotland in the middle ages. Like most kid’s films about that era, it depicts an idyllic place and time, with beautiful woods, gallant men and striking young women. Archery contests are the populist form of entertainment, and that is where our lead character comes in to the story.
The heroine of the story is Merida (Kelly Macdonald, Trainspotting), a skilled archer, who also happens to be a princess. The kingdom is ruled by her two parents King Fergus (played by Scottish funnyman Billy Connolly, The Last Samurai) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson, The Remains of the Day). By tradition, the Princess’ hand in marriage will be given to the winner of a contest (archery, of course), which displeases the young woman. The fathers of two of the young men in the contest are Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd, also from Trainspotting), and Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson, How to Train Your Dragon). Merida disguises herself as a suitor and wins the contest, leading to a split between mother and daughter, which includes Merida tearing down a royal tapestry, defying an age-old custom in her land. Merida finds herself consulting a witch (Julie Walters, Educating Rita) in order to make things right once again. The witch offers the young archer a wish, but the reality of the wish is not what Merida originally envisioned. This is when the princess must become “Brave” to face the challenge to set things to right.
This is a delightful, if at times slightly drawn-out story. Pixar re-wrote the code for their animation software for the first time in 25 years in order to make this film. This clearly shows in the smoothness of much of the movie. However, there are still times (especially during quick action in the film) where the animation leaves a lot to be desired.
Although this is a film for children, there are quite a few jokes within it that will best be appreciated by adults. Like most kid’s films, the storyline is simple and has been done many times before with slight variations. There is no mistaking Brave for great art, but it is still a delightful story for the young or the young-at-heart.