Brave New World

Whenever a Pixar movie gets released, it always comes with a truckload of expectation heaped on top of it. That extra scrutiny generally results in a perfectly acceptable movie being labeled as "disappointing" and a fairly good movie being labeled as a mesmerizing landmark that has changed the face of cinema. Those are the stakes when you're at the top of the field, I guess. Most of the press and reviews I've been reading about Brave put it into the former category, and it's a shame, because the newest member to the Pixar clubhouse is highly enjoyable.

The entire second half of this movie could be construed as spoilers, so read further at your own peril.

Everyone has discussed to death the fact that this is the first Pixar movie to feature a female protagonist, but I'm pleased to report that the movie doesn't treat this as a Big Honking Deal, and it's better for that. Merida is not my favorite character Pixar has ever dreamed up, but neither is she a walking seminar on girl power. In fact, both of the main characters in Brave are confident, strong women, and the movie just lets them be that instead of having to announce it.

Brave is essentially two movies in one. The first half is about Princess Merida and her mother Elinor at odds with each other. Elinor is trying to raise her daughter to be a proper lady, but Merida takes after her rambunctious, effusive father Fergus instead. Three mischievous triplets round out the family. This first half is rather slow, but it is always refreshing to see a movie family in which everyone actually loves each other.

The second half is where the movie picks up speed. When three suitors come to vie for Merida's hand in marriage, she rebels by entering the competition herself. This angers her mother, of course, so Merida runs into the forest, where she encounters a witch that gives her a spell to "change her mother's perspective". Naturally, the spell has unintended consequences, transforming the queen into a bear.

Thus begins the Merida and BearElinor's adventure to change her back, and it's in this section of the story that Brave truly shines. Action scenes are, of course, part of the package, but the heart of this movie is really about the love and deepening understanding between a mother and her daughter. While it may not belong at the top of the Pixar echelon, compared to most movies, it's a delight.

Brave: B+


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