Friday, 15 June 2012


(PG) ★★★★

Director: Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman.

Cast: (voices of) Kelly McDonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters.

Hair as Film Symbolism 101

IT'S generally accepted that all the Pixar movies are great... except Cars 2.

With a strike rate of 11-1, there is a huge amount of pressure on each subsequent release - will it live up to that gold-class Pixar standard or will it be another Cars 2?

The good news is Brave is a success. It's not of the same calibre as Wall-E, Up or The Incredibles - bona fide classics that will be watched for generations to come - but it's a stellar piece of family entertainment that harks back to the classic Disney fairytales, while adding some interesting twists along the way.

Brave is the tale of Merida (McDonald), a Scottish princess more at home with a bow and arrow in her hand than strapped into a corset and learning how to curtsey.

But as her pushy mother (Thompson) and tradition dictate, Merida is to be married to the first-born son of one of three other clans that share an uneasy alliance with her family.

Determined to pursue her own destiny, the fiery-haired princess flees the castle and discovers some powerful magic in the forest that may change her future forever.

Amid the awesomeness of the previous Pixar films (except Cars 2), strong female characters have been scarce - only Mrs Incredible and Violet, Dory the fish, and Jessie the cowgirl stand out. But here, Pixar are making amends, and it's girl power all the way, perhaps even going too far in the other direction, with the male characters in Brave a gallery of weird-looking buffoons - the nose of King Fergus (Connolly) is particularly distractingly abnormal.

One of the key themes is the mother-daughter relationship between Queen Elinor and Merida, which is wonderfully scripted. The Queen is a well-rounded character, a woman all too aware of the pressures Merida will face in the future, but unable to balance them against putting too much expectation on her daughter in the here-and-now. It makes for a realistic relationship that's bound to strike chords.

Merida is a stunning piece of work too. As free-flowing and unruly as her painstakingly animated red locks, she's the Disney anti-thesis - the young girl that doesn't want to be a princess and who is most certainly not searching for her Prince Charming. Merida is a refreshing character in a cinematic landscape where interesting female characters seem few and far between.

Self-determination, fate and destiny, the tyranny of tradition, and the pressure of expectation are among the themes that make this a rich film for all ages, while the Scottish setting adds some interesting spice to the mix.

Brave is not as dazzling or as unique as many of their previous films, but it's good enough, funny enough and smart enough to bump Pixar's strike rate up to 12-1.

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