[The Social Opportunist] Movie Review – Brave (2012)

Written by Phil July 04, 2012

Brave (2012)

It is very rare that I will go see an animated film nowadays, simply because they just aren’t exciting enough to get me off the couch and into the movie theatre. For the most part, they seem like cookie-cutter copies of each other. However, having seen some impressive previews and hearing some rave reviews about Brave, I decided that I may as well give it a shot! Seeing a red-headed, Scottish heroine in just about any movie is something so unique that you are almost forced to give it some of your attention. In addition to this unique selling point, Brave just seemed like a different kind of animated movie altogether. It appeared to showcase a distinctively witty sense of humour, an historical edge and a plot line that did not completely rely on the whimsy and fun of your typical 3D animated feature film. I really didn’t have a good reason not to go and see this movie so I caved in and bought a ticket, believing that I was going to be both entertained and surprised. Hope you enjoy the review!

Check out the trailer below before reading the review, just to give yourself a little context (or if you’ve already seen it, a little reminder).

***WARNING: The following review may contain spoilers.***

The story of Brave is centered around the story of Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald) of Clan DunBroch, a strong-willed, rebellious and fiery redhead who shows more interest in adventure and her bow-and-arrow than in marriage and etiquette. While her father, King Fergus (voiced by Bill Connolly), supports his daughter’s wild-child ways, her mother, Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson), laments at the fact that Merida does not care more about her upcoming betrothal and the future of their clan. When the Queen holds a contest to see which suitor from the other clans will take her daughter’s hand in marriage, Merida takes matters into her own hands and not only embarrasses her mother, but almost puts the steady peace of Scotland in jeopardy. After a heart-breaking confrontation with her mother, Merida flees the castle and stumbles upon on witch living deep in the forest. Seeing this as an opportunity to change her mother’s mind and her future, Merida asked the witch for a spell to use on her mother. However, once the princess uses the spell on Queen Elinor, she realizes that maybe, just maybe, she should have been careful what she wished for. What follows is a desperate attempt to reverse the damage done by the spell and repair the broken relationship between this mother and daughter.

Princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald) takes her future into her own hands.

While I was largely entertained throughout the course of the movie (and even found myself keeled over laughing at parts), there was something that really bothered my about Brave‘s overall storyline. Even though it had a pretty strong plot to rely on, with an impressive main character and lessons regarding morals and coming of age, this movie seemed to denigrate down to the level of other, less impressive animated films by surrounding the movie around a “magical” conflict. While the changing of Queen Elinor into a bear (an ever-present symbol throughout Brave) provided the film with enough fodder to move the overall story forward, it didn’t feel at all necessary to include. The story was already strong enough to begin with, given that a coming-of-age story is relatable to just about every audience member, and this “magical” aspect seemed to be more cliched than anything else. While Bravewas not an overly serious movie (by any means) and was obviously primarily directed towards kids, this juvenile aspect made the emotion seem contrived and the whole thing seem childish.

A positive critique that I have about Brave was regarding the characters themselves, who were by far one of the most appealing and interesting aspects of the entire movie. Merida (whose voice acting by Kelly MacDonald was near-perfect in accent, tone and emotion) was a unique character who brought a strength, wit and sarcasm to the animated feature that has never really been seen before in a movie of this kind. She was a smart, funny girl who retained a sense of hurt and torment for her future throughout the entire film, making her seem less like an animated character and more like a real person. In her tumultuous relationship with her mother, it was clear to see how the movie’s makers were planning on interacting, connecting and relating with the audience. Brave, as it would seem, will be a huge support to mothers out there dealing with unruly and misbehaving daughters, showing them that it does eventually get better for Queen Elinor. To help support the impressively emotional and engaging mother and daughter team, we have the intriguingly hilarious supporting characters of King Fergus, the (non-speaking) triplets and the eccentric witch.

Merida (Kelly MacDonald) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) engage in one of many mother-daughter quarrels.

Another impressive aspect of Brave was the fact that it showcased a setting not often seen in animated films. The backdrop of the Scottish highlands was beautiful to behold, as I’m sure it would’ve been in real life! Everything from the landscapes to the thick accents gave this fictional film an unintentional sense of reality that, while hindered by the “magic” plotline, did well to keep the audience captivated. And no one was more shocked than I to be so interested in a cast made up almost entirely of red heads! As I’ve said before, using history to help buttress the plot of a movie is something that really appeals to me. The way that Bravewas able to use some of the world’s own history instead of making up its own fantastical world made the movie that much more impressive. While I clearly have nothing against fictional worlds like Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings trilogy or Panem from The Hunger Games, it was definitely refreshing to see an animated film that tried so hard to bring reality into the mix.

Something that I definitely admired about Brave was its ability to teach its largely youth audiences a significant amount about life, growing up, responsibility and family in an exciting way that they would be engaged with and listen to without question. Many of the kids watching this movie might be going through similar issues with their own parents and this seems like a creative way to teach them about responsible ways to deal with them. Braveknew who its main audience would be and directed legitimate and logical advice towards them. I think that even adults who are having their own disagreements with their children could benefit from watching this movie, showing that, while you might disagree, mutual respect and communication is always the way to go! Above all, Brave was able to achieve a level of relatability that is often unheard of in movies, considering that, by nature, films are supposed to be an escape from the trials and tribulations of reality. However, for this movie, it worked!

It kills me to say this about an animated movie, and especially about one that at least showcased some very unique characteristics, however Brave definitely fell short of being a masterpiece worthy of having the Pixar name attached to it. It should’ve focused less on the magic and more on what it already had going for it; that being, a strong cast of characters, a compelling backdrop, a wheelbarrow full of lessons to teach and a wit/humor than easily transcended all age groups. It didn’t need the cheesy magic! This kept the movie from reaching its true potential and, instead, put it on par with the multitude of other medicore animated films that pass through our screens each year. Maybe I’m being unfair to Brave, especially considering the fact that I was indeed entertained while watching it, but for some reason, I can’t seem to let this go. One tweak to the composition of this film and it could have been spectacular! However, I’m sure that there will be a sequel coming up close behind, giving Pixar another opportunity to get it right.


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