Genre: Animated action drama
Premise: Faced with an unwanted arranged marriage, young and headstrong Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald) sets out to buck the expectations of her parents, change her fate and rewrite destiny. Cue the bears.
Behind-the-Scenes: Long deemed a "boys club," this was supposed to be Pixar's first movie directed by a woman - Brenda Chapman. In a controversial change though, Mark Andrews was added as co-director midway through production.
The Good: I love the voice work here. Boardwalk Empire's Kelly MacDonald has the perfect cadence for an animated heroine of Scottish descent. Billy Connelly and Emma Thomas do stellar work as Merida's parents. The mother-daughter storyline is appreciated, as there are so few movies that focus on that relationship. Pixar's animation remains top notch - Merida's fiery red hair is a spectacle unto itself. Merida's three unruly brothers provide fun comic relief.
The Bad: Pixar may be held to an unfair higher regard, but Brave's story is a major disappointment. I won't get into spoilers, but the movie lacks epic scope and ambition. It seems content to just do another run-of-the-mill Disney-style princess fable. We've seen this kind of thing before. There seems to be about 20-30 minutes worth of story missing here that would have helped make the film more complete. The character of Merida is a strong one, but the themes surrounding her are a bit muddled. Merida wants to change her fate and not just marry some guy, yet doesn't really do anything proactive in that pursuit, relying instead on witch magic to save the day. It's a bit too unexpectedly scary and intense for the under-6 set.
Should You See It?: Yes. It's Pixar, folks. Even a pedestrian Pixar film like this one is still worth watching.
Rating: *** out of 5 stars.