Even though this is a joint Disney/Pixar film, Brave feels like a classic “princess” story in the vein of the old Disney films and unfortunately veers away a little from what made recent films like Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3 great. But is it good? Absolutely.
The basic gist is that young princess Merida (voiced by Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald) is about the age where she should be getting married, but she’s more concerned with archery and adventure. So she seeks out a way to change her fate but this path changes everything and it’s soon that Merida is on a journey to set things right. The movie focuses heavily on magic but isn’t very fantastical, for those of you worried this might be too much.
The voice acting is spectacular in the fact that they cast big names but I wasn’t hit over the head with this fact repeatedly. In some animated films like Madagascar and even my beloved Kung-Fu Panda, you can’t forget that these huge names are behind the scenes. You can’t just forget that the voice is Ben Stiller or Jackie Chan or Jack Black. However, in Brave, they chose voices that worked perfectly and never once distracted me. Even though Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson are both recognizable names in the business, I wasn’t constantly reminded of that fact. That’s a smart move.
The visuals are also pretty incredible, as Pixar continues to innovate the world of CGI movies. I heard that they put more work into Merida’s hair alone than other Pixar movies in their entirety (and that effort definitely shows in this film). The environments are gorgeous and the landscape of Scotland definitely pops off the screen.
Now, when I said in the intro that this movie felt like an old-school Disney princess movie, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The storyline is fairly simple and somewhat predictable but the tale is well-told. So, as a princess story, it’s an enjoyable ride. But…
What doesn’t work?
… Past Pixar films have been about big issues. In Up, we watched a man who had lost everything try to connect with the world again. In Toy Story 3, we watched a journey of loss and grief and saying goodbye. In Brave, the story isn’t that deep. Again, as a princess story, it succeeds, but when compared to the journey taken by Wall-E or even the adventure to find Nemo… this is relatively small potatoes. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but it felt like something was missing.
Brave is a fantastic movie, a new version of the classic princess stories told via incredible computer-generated effects. The story is intimate in its scope but effective in its delivery. The theme of family may seem small compared to huge issues addressed in past Pixar movies, but the adventure is enjoyable and the payoff is incredible.