Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Directed By: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters
For their latest release, Pixar are whisking us away from worlds inhabited by talking cars and flying houses to Celtic Scotland for Brave; a title which not only denotes the exploits of the films heroine but also represents a new step forward for the animation studio itself.
Our heroine in question is Merida, a young princess with a fiery personality to match her sumptuous ginger hair. Merida is at an age where she wants to enjoy herself by shooting arrows & climbing mountains. However, her parents King Fergus and Queen Elinor have other ideas by planning for her to marry one of the first sons of one of the other clan leaders in their kingdom. In an attempt to change the fate that awaits her, Merida turns to a witch for help, with disastrous consequences.
As with all Pixar offerings the animation is second to none. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this is the most beautiful Pixar film to date. The Scottish highlands are stunningly realized and as an aside they do not need to be viewed in 3D to be appreciated. The inhabitants of this Celtic land are superbly rendered as well, especially the bear Mor’du who is debatably Pixar’s most visually terrifying villain since Sid in Toy Story.
Of course, in an animated picture the characters are not memorable unless the voice cast pulls it out of the bag and as with all other Pixar offerings, the voice acting in Brave is universally brilliant. Kelly Macdonald is especially noteworthy; her soft gentle tones capture the innocence of the young Merida, with her voice gradually rising throughout the film as the strength of Merida’s character increases.
Brave also benefits from a cleverly restrained advertisement campaign. The trailer focused merely on the films first act, meaning that when the film takes a significant new direction a third of the way through you’re able to revel in it as you didn’t know it was coming.
Additionally, Brave feels like a breath of fresh air considering Pixar’s previous two offerings have been sequels (even if one was the flawless Toy Story 3) and also marks an interesting new step for Pixar. This is the first time they have presented us with anything close to the traditional fairytale story Disney is known for. However, this is what becomes the films undoing; in creating a Disney-esc story, the film is unable to compete with the greatness of Pixar classics such as the Toy Story trilogy and Up which managed to capture our imaginations by being completely original.
Brave also suffers from a constant feeling that it is trying to force its morality message about following your heart and listening to your parents down your throat (making one particular scene towards the end of the second act almost cringe worthy).
Brave ticks most of the boxes we expect from Pixar; the stunning visuals, the wonderful characters and the flawless voice acting. But with its Disney-esc fairytale plot and annoyingly unsubtle moral message, Brave may be great but it is never Pixar-great.