Merida is the young princess of Dunbroch, a clan in the Scottish Highlands. She lives with her father, King Fergus, who she loves deeply, and her three triplet brothers, who she describes as "wee devils, more like."
And there's also her mother. Queen Elinor.
Through a flashback, we see that Elinor and Merida used to be close, but as Merida crept into her teens she and her mom moved apart. Elinor strives to help Merida go far in life by teaching and training her to be a princess. Elinor teaches her music, sewing, oration, how to walk, how to eat, how to dress, how to laugh, and how to be perfect.
Merida is having none of it.
She only wants to ride her horse, explore the land around her, and practice her archery. She tolerates her mom's teachings until Elinor pulls the last straw. Elinor insists on Merida choosing a suitor and getting married.
After several failed attempts to defy her mother, Merida finally runs away. She meets a witch, who Merida asks for a spell to change her mother. "If I can change my mother, that will change my fate," she reasons.
Four spellbound grizzlies, one cursed monster, and a near four clan war later, Merida realizes she might have made a mistake in wanting to change her mother.
My second thought after watching this movie was "What a great story!" And it is. I'll start with the characters. (I'll get to my first thought later.)
Merida is absolutely brilliant. For those who don't know, she's going to be added to the Disney princess franchise and quite frankly, I'm ecstatic. It's about time they paid homage to stubborn curly-haired archer girls with Scottish backgrounds who have zero interest in dating. ;) Anyway, it's also nice to see a very aggressive Disney princess who drives the plot and movie forward. Her fiery spirit and bold, reckless determination to change things is the driving point of the plot. If they changed Merida to be the tiniest bit passive, the story would have fallen.
Elinor is pretty good too. I'm glad Pixar decided to end the string of Disney Princess mommy issues with a movie about...mommy issues. (Think about it, almost every time there is a mom she's the villain. Most of the time, the mom's are just gone!) Elinor is very controlling, but you get the feeling that she's trying to care for Merida in the best way she knows how. However, I will say some of her actions seemed unrealistic. She seemed way to intense in one scene, and then way too depressed in another. Overall, she was a good, complex character. Perhaps more complex than even Merida. I'm just a bit biased as to favorite character. ;)
King Fergus is Merida's well-meaning, though rather clueless, father. (Aren't all the Disney Princess dad's well-meaning but clueless?) Looking back, "clueless" is too strong a word. He's not clueless at all. He knows exactly how Merida feels. I think a better word for him would be "torn." He's not sure whether to side with Elinor or with Merida in this. He tries to bring the two together and do whatever he can to help without harming the other. In a strange way, he reminded me of Stoic from DreamWorks' "How to Train Your Dragon". More on that later too.
Those are the three main characters. Now for the overall story.
A lot of people were upset with this, but I loved it. I thought it was a very cool idea to add some of the old Scottish superstitions and druidic influences. I said influences mind you. If the story had been caked in dark magic and such, I would not have liked it. But it was just a touch, which gave the story something of a rugged and ancient charm.
I don't want to give too much of the story away, but the final battle was beyond brilliant.
The animation. Oh. My. Goodness. This might be Pixar's finest job yet!
Just look at her hair. Look at it! That's even more impressive than Rapunzel from Tangled!
The beautiful Scottish highlands are captured in every way by the animation. I love the shots of the beautiful mountains, gorgeous valleys, and ancient forests. It makes you want to visit Scotland.
I've got nothing in particular to say about the acting. Kelly MacDonald did a great job voicing Merida. Love the accent. All the other actors did great also.
Sadly, every movie has it's cons. Brave has more than I had expected it to have.
My first thought after finishing the movie was, "That didn't feel like a Pixar movie...." And it didn't. It felt more like a conglomeration of 'How to Train Your Dragon' and 'Tangled.' I mentioned earlier that Fergus reminds me of Stoic. It's not because they act alike. It's because they look a LOT alike, and they have nearly the same accent and some of the same mannerisms. (They both go around and beat things up a lot.)
Compare their pictures and see what I mean.
Elinor, on the other hand, looks a LOT like Rapunzel's real mom from 'Tangled.'
A lot of people did not like the addition of the witch. I don't exactly understand this. After all, there is a witch in Snow White and The Little Mermaid too. Of course, the witch in Brave is not the villain. However, trying to change someone for selfish reasons, which is what Merida does through the witch, is shown to be bad. The witch herself seems to warn against buying a spell from her. I didn't have an issue with it, but I get it if other people do have issues with it.
I love the absolute completeness the plot has too. I love how the "legend" Elinor tells Merida of is woven seamlessly into the story, portraying the bear Mor'du as a foil and scary foreshadowing of Merida. I love how their names are similar, they each had four siblings, they each rebelled and wanted to change. Mor'du is a dark reminder to Merida (and to the viewer) what happens when you forsake your family. You, quite literally, become a monster.
I was a tad disappointment after watching it. People have come to expect a lot from Pixar. Brave isn't quite at the same level as say, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., or Cars. It still is a good, sweet story though. When you go to watch it though, I suggest thinking of it as a DreamWorks or a Disney movie instead of Pixar. I prefer both 'How to Train your Dragon' and 'Tangled' over Brave simply because Brave was made by Pixar and did not quite live up to their standards.
Despite that, it is most certainly a must-see. It's a good, hearty tale with some clean laughs and fiery spirit.
You might find yourself paying more attention to your family after watching it.
Or you might just get this epic song stuck in your head. Either one.
(Hint for next movie: These men battle aliens and save the universe on a daily basis, yet nobody knows their names. And they wear black.)