Friday, June 22, 2012

A Reel Review: BRAVE

It took 13 films for Pixar to finally render out a story with a female main character. In BRAVE, directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman dive into the task with the bravery of any noble Scotsman (or lady) by charging straight towards the strongest of all lady-tales; the relationship between a mother and daughter. But fear not, wee-lads; BRAVE is still a film aimed at the masses with plenty to go around for everybody.
Set in the highlands of medieval Scotland, young Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a bit of a tomboy; unmatched in archery and unwilling to be a proper and prim princess. Her parents, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) are required by tradition to marry her off to one of the sons of the neighboring clans. After a bitter battle with her mother, Merida runs away to the forest where she encounters a witch, who grants Merida a spell to change her overbearing mother.

While the focus of BRAVE seems to be the relationship between Merida and her mother, when looking a bit deeper it’s clear that the messages the film is trying to push has more to do with family and responsibility. There are conversations in the film that everyone has had with a parent at one time or another, or at least wish that they had. It is a very mature film, but one that stays vibrant with lots of adventure and magic.
When the magic does show up and do its thing, BRAVE goes through a major shift in tone; major enough that it nearly jars you of out the movie, and Merida’s own story nearly gets lost in it. Similar to JAWS (which turned from a horror flick to a men-on-mission movie), the shift, while distracting, still holds its course towards the film’s main goals. Backed by some clever writing and enough subtle allegory (which some folk may never catch), BRAVE still manages to bring all the important things back home.

The craftsmanship of BRAVE is comparable to any live-action film ever to earn gold. The highlands and forests of Scotland are beautifully realized; from lush rolling hills, thick forests and crystal-clear roaring brooks, BRAVE is a marvel to look at and possibly the best Pixar has ever rendered. The film is also saturated in Scottish lore; myths and legends and some good fun in the form of Scottish brawlin’ and warrin’. And the score is mag-fucking-nificent.
At a brisk 93 minutes, BRAVE doesn’t take a lot of time to dance around the forest, and Merida seems to reach an arc a little too quickly. The film doesn’t quite hit the emotional chords the way some of Pixar’s stronger efforts have, but it makes an honest and unabashed effort at it and it does seem to work. BRAVE is quick and brisk and feels like a small movie, but one that is very worthwhile.


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