There are traditions in cinema that come about every year; a new Woody Allen movie, Universal rereleases a classic film to coincide with a Blu Ray rerelease and of course, the one we all look forward to the most, the annual Pixar release. True, the last one was Cars 2 so that might have knocked our anticipation levels down a notch but a company that has films like Toy Story, Ratatouille and Up in their back catalogue will always deserve our attention. This year they bring us Scottish based fable Brave, a tale of family values featuring rebellious Princess Merida (Macdonald) who doesn’t exactly get on with her mother Queen Elinor (Thompson). When forced to choose a suitor to marry, Merida makes a decision that could forever alter her future.
First thing is first, it’s not the best Pixar movie, but it’s far from the worst. It feels more like a Disney movie than an actual Pixar product; it’s more comparable to Tangled and How To Train Your Dragon than any of the company’s previous works. Whilst both of those are very good and most animated movies should be happy to be compared to them, they are not classics like Pixar usually churns out. The biggest problem here is the plot, whilst it is well written, it’s just nothing we haven’t seen before and at times it’s just quite badly handled. There is a twist midway through the film that almost feels as though it cheapens the story and the movie could have been far more entertaining without it.
On the other hand, the characters are wonderfully realised in Brave, from the strong willed rebellious teenaged Merida to her equally stubborn, but far more appropriate mother and it feels like a blast to spend time in the universe that has been created around them. The dynamics that the family go through in the early part of the film are very enjoyable and relatable, and perhaps the relationship between Merida and her parents is one of the most realistic that Pixar have put onto screen so far, and the voice work involved only makes it better. Not only are the characters made so charming by the script and performances, they are also wonderfully brought to life with some of the best digital animation that has ever been committed to screen (and yes, the red hair is as stunning as it has been in all the marketing materials). The characters are still thoroughly engaging after the twist but it takes them to places that may not be as interesting as others.
There is definitely a lot to like about Brave, it is fun, gorgeous to look at and brimming with real emotion, it’s just its plot that stops it from being a Pixar classic. There are some smart choices from the creative team; the decision to focus on a mother/daughter relationship is a move we really need to see more of in film and the bold choice to set the tale in Scotland which adds a little wonder to the piece. It’s just a shame that it’s missing that edge the Pixar usually handle so well, but then again, it’s not Cars 2.