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TBTS Reviews: Brave

June 27, 2012

Brave movie posterBrave is the fairy tale movie that girls like me have been waiting for all our lives; it’s the story of a young woman figuring out her destiny, with nary a glass slipper in sight. Fans of the classic fairy tales will no doubt agree that they all seem to have a few things in common, namely a passive princess waiting to be rescued by Prince Charming, and the only real threat is to their happily-ever-after. For a lot of young girls, this story might be romantic but also pretty unrealistic. Lots of us grew up wishing Ariel and Belle and Snow White would just do something already. Why waste time laying around the castle (or forest or whatever) waiting for some dude to come along, when you could be out having adventures of your own? Finally, with Brave, we have the heroine we’ve been waiting for. Spoilers ahead.

Brave is the story of Merida, the teenage daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. She spends her days running, jumping, climbing, and shooting things with arrows. Her father encourages her, while her mother tries desperately to teach her how to be a lady. The trouble begins when the Queen invites the heads of the three other clans to a Gathering, or cèilidh, with feats of strength and skill to determine who shall have Merida’s hand in marriage. The only problem is that Merida is hell-bent on not getting married. She causes an uproar at the Gathering by competing for her own hand, then runs away after a huge fight with her mother. She comes upon a witch in the forest who crafts a spell for her to change her fate. Changing Merida’s fate requires changing Merida’s mother, who is turned into a bear, and the usual bear-induced hijinks follow. Only a lesson in selflessness and mending bonds can bring the Queen back to her human form.

I cannot put into words how beautiful this film is. The attention to detail is astounding, and the landscapes are sweeping and beautiful. I’ve been to Scotland, and it really does look like that: the mist, the moors, the glens. The facial expressions in this film are so real, you’d think they filmed the actors delivering their lines and then just drew the animation over it (maybe they did? I have no idea how animation actually works). And Merida’s hair!

Merida

It wouldn’t be a Pixar movie without a quirky cast of characters, and Brave has plenty. While Merida and Queen Elinor are fairly straight-laced, King Fergus and Merida’s triplet brothers provide plenty of comic relief. The triplets are wee troublesome things, always stealing cakes from the kitchen and causing no shortage of mischief around the castle. They’re pretty adorable as humans, but become ridiculously cute when they fall under the same spell as the Queen and are turned into little bear cubs.

Triplets

The heads of the three other clans are equally ridiculous, constantly warring among themselves for who-knows-why. While Merida and Queen Elinor deal with the very real problem of Elinor being a bear, King Fergus and the other clansmen spend much of the film boozing and fighting.

In the end, Merida learns that you can’t always do what’s best for yourself, that sometimes you have to do what’s best for others. She proposes breaking with tradition and allowing the young people to choose whom they want to marry, thus keeping the peace among the clansmen and freeing herself from her marital obligations. The clansmen then come together to fight Mor’du, the large black bear that took King Fergus’ leg many years ago and upon whom the King has vowed revenge. Queen Elinor, while still in bear form, joins the fight against Mor’du and kills him, thus saving her family and the other clansmen. When Elinor risks her life to save her family, Merida realizes the importance of putting others needs ahead of your own, and this important coming-of-age moment frees her mother from the spell.

Brave is a beautifully animated, brilliantly told story of a girl becoming a young lady, and of a mother and daughter who learn to respect each other. The casting is perfect: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Kevin McKidd and Craig Ferguson all do an amazing job with the Scottish accents (of course, everyone except Emma Thompson actually is Scottish). It led this weekend’s box office with $66.7 million in ticket sales, and will surely go on to make a lot more money for the studio. It’s definitely worth watching, whether you’re 8, 28, or 88.

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One Comment
  1. Sean Gilroy permalink
    June 29, 2012 7:40 pm

    Well said. A lot of prominent critics seem to have written this off as just another Disney Princess Movie, and I have to wonder if they saw the same movie I did. I suspect most of them saw the word “princess” in the plot synopsis and decided then and there what kind of review they were going write, only watching the film so they could fill in the details (yes, Roger Ebert, in the unlikely event that you are reading this, I am talking about you). I thought it was damn near perfect.

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