Pixar’s beautiful “Brave” captures the magic of ancient Scotland
Like “Cinderella,” “Snow White” and “Beauty and the Beast” before it, Disney-Pixar’s latest animated tale has the familiar feel of a Old World fairytale.
There’s a fearsome monster, a wily witch and a noble-born heroine desperate to change her fate. But while previous princesses relied on fairy godmothers and handsome princes for help, fearless Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) prefers to save herself in “Brave.”
A flame-haired free spirit who’s equally at home on horseback or plucking a bowstring, Merida appears to have more in common with her rough-and-ready warrior father, Fergus (Billy Connolly), than her refined mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson). She’s always insisting that Merida act “like a lady,” even if that means sacrificing valuable target practice time.
The reason for all that ladylike training becomes becomes clear when representatives from the Dingwall, MacGuffin and MacIntosh clans arrive at the castle, eager to compete for Merida’s hand.
“It’s marriage, not the end of the world,” Elinor tells her daughter, but it doesn’t matter. This impetuous princess has no plans of getting married.
At an archery contest reminiscent of Disney’s “Robin Hood,” Merida strides straight up to the target and announces “I’ll be shooting for my own hand!” — right before loosing arrow after arrow with admirable accuracy.
After a furious argument with her mother, Merida flees to the forest, where a trail of glowing blue will-o’-the-wisps lead her to a witch’s wood shop. One magical mishap later, the princess must find the courage to mend their relationship and save her kingdom.
Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell, beautiful “Brave” doesn’t quite reach the heights of “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles” and “WALL-E.”
For starters, the PG-rated humor is surprising broad. A modern-day reference to answering machines and jokes about bare-assed Scotsman and gag-inducing haggis reminded me of Disney’s dumber films, although I have to admit I still found them funny.
The story, too, seems a bit simplistic compared to Pixar’s past masterpieces. For all its messages about family, empowerment and responsibility, “Brave” is ultimately just another princess movie.
On the plus side, “Brave” features a superb voice cast (including real-life Scots Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson and Kevin McKidd), superb animation and a soaring Celtic score by composer Patrick Doyle and Scottish Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis
At times, I felt like I was hovering above the Scottish highlands in a invisible helicopter. The landscape — laid out like a lovely quilt of fierce forests, wild moors, steep cliffs and crystal-clear lakes — looked that real.
Following Pixar tradition, “Brave” is preceded by an animated short — “La Luna,” a cute tale about a bright-eyed boy, his two gruff relatives and their unique profession.
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