It’s been a long time coming … and finally it’s here: a Disney film with a princess that is independent. Merida, the latest, in a long line of Disney princesses finally breaks the myriad of tropes that Disney has placed on its female characters. She doesn’t exclusively worry about getting married, she doesn’t worry about impressing an imposing male figure, and she is more than a pretty accessory to some prince or other male character.
Hard to believe it took this long, but in 2012 women finally get a protagonist that’s worth cheering for on all levels – a woman that doesn’t need a man to make her life interesting. I had massively high expectations going into this film since it was going to be made by Pixar, which had recently finished WALL-E and Up – arguably two of the greatest animated films ever made. Unfortunately the magic just isn’t there, Brave never reaches the groundbreaking status that Pixar has become famous for.
Merida, is a Scottish princess, being raised by her father King Fergus and Queen Elinor. She likes horseback riding and archery and this allows her to develop a close relationship with her father, but it puts her at odds with her mother who wishes Merida would act more like a “princess.”
The time comes to find a suitor for Merida and the normally tense relationship with her mother reaches a boiling point. Merida sees a witch whom gives Merida a concoction that will change her mother’s mind about marrying a suitor. Unfortunately, this concoction doesn’t have the intended effect and Merida must find a way to set things right.
Above all Brave is a film about family relationships, particularly parents’ relationships with their children while they are coming of age. As far as character development goes, Brave really hits the mark. The difficulties Merida has with her parents and the focus the film puts on these battles between children and parents should ring true with a lot of families. If you have a daughter (or any children), then seeing this movie comes highly recommended.
Merida is the anti Disney princess, princess. She actively seeks a life of her own rather than waiting for a male figure to show her how to live. She has a rebellious attitude, but as she grows up she begins to learn that the lessons taught by her parents are wrought with truth. She is basically the role model that progressive parents have been waiting for, for their young daughters.
While the relationship Merida has with her mother carries a lot of the dramatic tension, a lot of the comic relief can be found with Fergus, Merida’s father. Fergus has a number of amusing scenes with the clansmen and with Merida; his inability to handle his daughter, while his wife is present adds a nice touch of adult humor to the story.
While this film will entertain kids, audiences have come to expect a high quality of filmmaking from Pixar, and Brave just isn’t up to the usual standards. Although the characters are strong, the plot is clunky. The shifts between major events aren’t seamless and feel forced. The major plot between Merida and her mother is really over the top and quite frankly it took me out of the movie more often than it provided opportunities for exploring mother/daughter relationships.
Pixar’s ability to create extremely emotional scenes just isn’t present movie – don’t expect anything close to the caliber of the opening montage from Up, and don’t expect the clever social commentary about the world we live in that was found in WALL-E. There are moments where it feels like Brave could grab your heart and run with it – like Pixar has done before – but it just doesn’t happen.
A number of other odd things that were bothersome in this movie, include the use of slow motion action scenes, which just feels bizarre in an animated move for children. The music switches between Celtic inspired classical music, which really serves to enhance the film, but it occasionally decides to insert Celtic inspired indie rock songs, which are distracting.
The long awaited strong independent Princess story is finally here, but frankly it deserved better treatment than it got. On the adult level this film is disappointing, but kids should be able to overlook most of the flaws of the movie.