A Pixar movie that's more Disney that its predecessors, Brave is jaunty fun but it's some distance from the quality of Toy Story or Monsters Inc. It's still better than Cars and a lot better than Cars 2, however. That darned 3D makes some scenes extremely difficult to make out.
Be careful for what you wish for. Merida (MacDonald) is a feisty princess who prefers to be riding her horse into dark forests, skilfully picking off targets with her bow and arrow, much to her mother Elinor's (Thompson) disappointment, as this behaviour is not becoming of a princess. In a last effort to get her daughter in line, Elinor organises an archery tournament and invites the three biggest clans to compete for Merida's hand. An encounter with a witch (Walters) gives Merida a chance to duck out of this predicament: she wishes that her mother would change, and change she does into a bear! Now Merida has to keep mum hidden from dedicated bear-hunter Fergus (Connolly).
The story and the impressive animation (when you can see it - more of that in a minute) are bells and whistles to disguise what's really going on here: mum/daughter relations and the generational divide. Mum says 'Do as I say,' daughter says, 'Yiz haven't a clue,' and so on. How this is teased out – both parties must learn to listen to each other - is cute. It's not all verbal sparring, though. There's knockabout fun to be found with the feuding clans engaged in all-out war in the castle meeting hall; the blustery fathers that present their nerdy sons are a hoot.
Brave has the courage to sidestep elements synonymous with children's animation. Because none of the three suitors presented are eligible, the notion of a romantic subplot with a dashing prince isn’t entertained, which is fine - not every movie has to have one - but it could have added something to the straightforward story. The real downer, however, is that there's no villain meaty enough to keep the action ticking over. Writer-directors Andrews, Chapman and Purcell toss in an evil bear roaming the woods but it doesn't have a big enough part to play. Everything slows down in the middle because of this and you can only cut back to the warring families in the castle so many times to keep things upbeat.
All that would be forgivable if it wasn't for the blasted 3D. A lot of Brave's scenes take place in dark castle hallways or forests at night and the visuals are so diminished it's hard to make out the facial features. It's absolutely ridiculous.
Brave might not be one of Pixar's best but they're always worth a look, aren’t they? (All except Cars 2 that is.)
Story by Gavin Burke | 09:48 | Thursday 29th November 2012 | DVD review