Review - Brave


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Pixar gets a Princess
Brave (2012)
Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson
Release Date:
Age Rating:
As the date approaches for a decision to be made on her suitor, young Princess Merida wants nothing more than to escape the confines of the castle and royal life to keep her freedom for just a little longer.

Pixar’s latest outing will likely be remembered more for the creative scuffles during production and the fact that it marks the CG house’s first princess than for forging new ground in the field of animation.

It’s not that it’s a bad film, we’re not in Cars 2 territory here, and the stylised art and zippy pace will likely earn it plenty of fans but Brave often just doesn’t feel like Pixar. The story is a little too broad and simple, the comedy less refined and the emotional moments a tad too on the nose.

Starting with an energetic voice over from an exceedingly Scottish Kelly Macdonald, the film oozes charm from the off – painting a very fictional but cinematic vision of medieval Scotland and furnishing it with a family that is having some domestic trouble. However you dress it up with period costumes and natty castles, Brave remains something of a drama, chiefly focussed on the interplay between the teenaged Merida and her overbearing mother, voiced by Emma Thompson.

And that’s just fine – Pixar’s larger themed movies (like Wall-E and Up) have a habit of going off the rails in the last act and the fairly simple central story gives them ample opportunity to concentrate on some effective set pieces and characterisation.

There are also, wonder of wonders, some actual surprises in the plot of Brave – borne out of a genuine attempt to keep some matters hidden during the promotional campaign. It’s something we wish would spread to other studios and you’d be well advised to avoid spoilers if possible as it adds an extra-natural air to proceedings which is best experienced fresh.

Macdonald is delightful as Merida – amping up the petulance without ever really seeming annoying and investing the character with a lot of energy. Thompson hides behind a near perfect Scottish accent to give a memorable performance Billy Connolly plays the boisterous King pretty much as you’d expect. The local voice work is generally impeccable, from Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson and Robbie Coltrane – with the only aberration being Pixar stalwart John Ratzenberger’s unconvincing brogue.

There’s charm aplenty here but we’re in an age when we expect more from our animations. The mythical framing story is perfunctory at best and the plot is rife with contrivances – like a witch who shows up when it’s convenient and the ever present wisps who get Merida back on track whenever she wanders like some kind of in game map marker. The ending too is less effective than it could have been – choosing a literal meaning for a solution that could have been much more emotional in a less blatant form.

Brave, then, is simpler film than some of Pixar’s finest but still captivates like few other titles around. The stylised art is breathtaking, particularly Merida’s flowing mane of hair and the score by Patrick Doyle, plus some solid songs make for a stirring adventure.

Brave is a charming, beautiful, humorous and impeccably made animation which falters a little on its deeper moments but remains thoroughly entertaining throughout.

8 Stars: Recommended
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