Who doesn’t love a fiery redhead with strong character? Those of you who just raised your hands will be disappointed in the new CG-animated film, Brave, but the rest of us have been anticipating Scottish accents, slapstick humor, kilts, and a summer blockbuster that Pixar has done everything in its power to promote. Video games, featurette-length trailers, and an assortment of dolls and costumes hit the store shelves well before you could even get in line to buy tickets.
I betray nothing not already seen in the trailers by divulging that the story starts with young Merida learning she is about to become the trophy in a contest between the most eligible young men in Scotland. What you have already seen in the trailers, though, walks a careful line of half-truth editing, and the story soon takes a sharp right turn into the magical highlands of Scotland by following the recognizable trail of glowing bread crumbs now standardized by the video game industry.
At heart, Brave is a mother-daughter coming-of-age tale that explores the pitfalls of parenting and childhood dreams of adventure but, like its marketing tactics, we have seen this story before. It is a typical Disney princess fairy tale that will have little girls from the ages of three to thirteen desperate for dresses from the Middle Ages and wild red wigs for Halloween.
While the basic storyline itself follows no great deviation from its Disney predecessors, there are certainly some moments in the film which may be a bit much for young audiences. There are a few dark, rainy scenes hinted at in the pre-release clips that become quickly intense. My 6-year-old nephew, who is fairly sensitive and has not yet learned the word ‘macho,’ would likely find himself more nervous than usual to turn out the lights at bedtime after a romp through the bear-infested Scotland forests, and the recommended age of 10 and up marked on the video game feels appropriate for the movie, as well.
Aside from those intense moments hosted by Mother Nature, the film is exactly what you would expect from Pixar: clean, sometimes silly, certainly funny, surprising in moments (I recall most of the audience gasping audibly in dire anticipation at one scene), and heart-warming in all the right places. The characters are endowed with realistic expressions and impressive textures. The artwork is, as we have come to expect from Pixar, beautiful and even absorbing in capturing most details from the grand sweep of the Scottish countryside down to the flick of a horse’s tail.
However, the lack of newness to the plot, sidekicks, and even locations is a little disappointing in what is otherwise expected to be one of the summer’s biggest films for the under-18 crowd. While Brave is entertaining, amusing, and artful, it lacks an innovative story, leaving one with the feeling that the movie exists to promote a new video game, rather than the other way around.