Pixar does it again with its first foray into a female protagonist driven film with "Brave." While the story of a fiercely independent gal from Scotland proves to be a surprisingly simple one and at times wholly predictable, it is also one of Pixar’s funniest and most beautiful efforts to date.
Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a young lass with a natural curiosity for all things adventurous. When her father gives her a bow and arrow for her birthday, she is beside herself. Her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson) however, is not so thrilled. You see, Merida is to be primed and primped for her inevitable arranged marriage when she comes of age - something Merida isn’t aware she is being set up for.
Having spent years being coached, prodded, and coddled into a "young lady," Merida’s favorite days are when she can jump on her trusty steed and go off into the forest to shoot targets and scale cliffs where she drinks from waterfalls. So it is a shock when mom tells her that three Kings from around the country will be bringing their sons as suitors for her hand.
Once the rag-tag group arrives with comic-antics in tow, Merida makes the boys participate in an archery challenge that will prove who is the most worthy of her hand. Cleverly, Merida positions herself as the fourth competitor "for my own hand" and easily wins the competition. Mother, of course, is furious and quicker than you can say "will o’ the wisps" Merida has fled the kingdom and gone deep into the forest. There, she is led by actual "wisps" and sent to a witch’s house where she begs her for a spell that will change her mother.
While some reviews might reveal what this spell creates, I won’t. Half the fun of the movie is where the plot goes at this point, none of which is revealed in the trailers. Let’s just say there’s a bit of thieving from "Brother Bear," but in this - the film embraces its heart and becomes hilariously funny in the process.
Even with a side-villain here in the form of a battered and scarred black bear, this film isn’t about good and evil. It’s about a mother and daughter trying to understand each other. It’s a relatable parent/child dynamic that is told in a refreshingly old-school fairy-tale way. As stated, "Brave" doesn’t reinvent the wheel here. But it takes the usual Pixar palette, enhances the colors to give it a rich, dark hue, showcases a lovely heroine for the modern age, and gets the humor just right.
As for the 3D tech, it’s impressive and enhances the beautifully rendered scenery and Merida’s impressive fiery locks of hair, but it’s not a "must."