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Pixar’s newest release “Brave” is a story about a princess cut from a different cloth than we’re used to seeing. Not since “Mulan” and “Pocahontas” have we had such a strong female protagonist willing to forge her own path, and just like her predecessors, it’s at the cost of bringing chaos to their world. Though predictable, as many animated films of this ilk tend to be, the story itself is very original and takes full advantage of its setting, the wondrous Highlands of Scotland.
Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a headstrong young lass that takes more after her father, King Fergus (Billy Connoly) than her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). She’d rather ride her spirited Clydesdale Angus through the woods firing off her bow, than learn royal etiquette and such. When Merida defies an age old tradition, and seeks the help of an old witch to change her fate, she unknowingly sets in motion events that could tear her kingdom and family apart, and finding out an age old legend about a curse has more truth to it than she could’ve known.
With an all-star cast of honest to goodness Scottish actors, “Brave” really shines, and the cast really brings the authenticity to it. Joining those already mentioned are Robbie Coltraine as Lord Dingwall, Craig Ferguson as Lord Macintosh, and Kevin McKidd as Lord MacGuffin, three elder Lords under King Fergus from the surrounding lands. Julie Walters (best known as Mama Weasley in the “Harry Potter” films) voices the witch, and John Ratzenberger makes his Pixar cameo as Gordon, the guard.
The characters in this are really fun, especially Fergus, and his triplet infant sons, Harris, Hubert, and Hamish. Those three are hilarious trouble makers and would make Huey, Dewey, and Louie proud. Now I’m a Disney fan and all, but to me it’s always been about the villains, and this film kind of let me down in that department. Mor’du is the big bad of the film, and he’s a bear. That being said he’s a terrifying demonic looking bear but I’m used to my villains oozing personality. It didn’t hurt the story, on the contrary it helped, but I still missed it.
What made this movie stand out for me is the fact that even with the predictability of the story I was pleasantly shocked to find the core of the film was about a mother and daughter’s bond. Another pleasant surprise was the lack of a love interest for Merida. I was very happy to see that along Merida’s journey to find herself, and fix the curse, she isn’t saddled with the need of a love interest to get her through. Even the aforementioned “Mulan” and “Pocahontas” had those and the change here was refreshing.
The Blu-Ray/DVD combo comes with a wealth of special features including 12 behind-the-scenes featurettes and two shorts, “The Legend of Mor’du” which expands on the story, and the Pixar short “La Luna.” All of the featurettes are worth watching to see how much research and love they put into this film, and the shorts are definitely worth a look too. “Brave” may not have broke any new ground or won critics hearts, but it is still a very well done film, and a great addition to their library and yours.