Brave

Posted: June 29, 2012 in Movie Reviews

Disney’s newest princess lets an arrow fly in an attempt to rescue herself from a life doomed to matrimony, much to the astonishment of both suitors and parents.

The best recipe for a great film requires the following: A pound of good story, for starters; several scoops of fresh perspective; a dash of familiar; a pinch of drama; and a smidgen of humor won’t go amiss. But before adding the essentials, proper preparation is key. Ensure all the essentials are good and fresh, and blend it all together seamlessly. The one who can do this will have the most appetizing and delicious, not to mention irresistible, film. Of course, Pixar Studios figured this out a long time ago, and have been sticking to the recipe for 15 years now.

But even the most skilled of culinary creationists don’t always keep to the recipe. Improvisation (or in the world of food, “risks”) are sometimes necessary to create new and appealing foods. I’m sure that whoever came up with the s’more had no recipe. The idea is the same in the world of film as it is in the world of food, and Pixar is no stranger to taking risks. Cars that talk, rats that cook, and houses that fly are among some of the most chancy, yet innovative themes that have ever graced the movie screen. Who else could make you fall in love with a robot falling in love with a robot, might I ask?

Pixar’s newest and 13th film builds on that tradition of risk-taking. Filled with adventure, mystery, a bit of magic, and spell-binding visuals, Brave is a story built on a blending of legend and mythology.

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Summary:

Princess Merida has been raised as a Scottish royal her entire life, seeking a life filled with adventure and never shying away from danger. But as she comes of age, her mother Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson) insists on her behaving more like a refined princess, greatly straining their relationship. She keeps Merida inside attending her royal duties, while Merida dreams of riding through the forest shooting arrows and generally shirking responsibility.

When Elinor and King Fergus (voiced by the unforgettable Billy Connolly) invite the first-born of the three Scottish clans to try and win the fair maiden’s hand, Merida’s temperance has about run its course. After taking matters unto herself by shooting for her own hand in the archery tournament, utterly embarrassing her parents, Elinor and Merida have one final clash that pushes their tempers to the absolute max. In a fit of rage, the not-so-fair-haired maiden runs away and finds a strange old witch in the forest.

Merida happens upon a will-o’-the-wisp which leads her to an opportunity to change her fate.

The witch grants Merida one spell, being that she change Elinor’s mind about the marriage issue. However, the curse goes awry when the queen is instead turned into a bear. Now faced with an enormous dilemma, Merida must find the witch & take back the spell before it becomes permanent. In the process, their relationship heals and even strengthens as the two find out things about each other they never knew or thought possible.

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“If you had the chance to change your fate, would ye?” asks Merida. The situation she finds herself in forces her to ask that question. Of course, what teen (or adult) has ever not asked that question? If each wish to change the status quo were an apple, then you could probably fill an entire Scottish castle. Pretty much every Disney princess ever seen on the screen has yearned for the opportunity to change their current situation. Hence Merida’s wish is nothing new. But this aspect of her natures certainly helps us identify with her, and causes us to side more with her. And when Merida learns her lesson at the end, we learn it right along with her.

The reason why Brave was a risk was due to the fact that this was not an entirely new story. We’ve seen rebellious princesses before (think Mulan and The Little Mermaid) but none who had a tangled up mess of fiery-red hair and a Scottish accent. If the film had not been set in the hills of Scotland, but rather in a more domestic setting, most likely it would not have seemed as fresh. Fun, yes, but not new. However, the backdrop and time period create a new twist and establishes that something novel and unexpected may come.

Visually, the film was stunning. Superbly detailed, well-crafted, and well-researched. Every tree, stone, and lake was based off of the real Scotland. To ensure its authenticity, the film makers even took a trip over to the motherland in an attempt to create a fantastical-yet-palpable world. The end result is an incredible landscape that just feels in place. A+ for setting.

As for the story, it felt in place as well. The most essential aspect in a film is story. Without a good narrative, your film will go nowhere. It’s like baking a cake with bad ingredients. You can add as much frosting as you like, it won’t cover up what’s underneath.

Being brave is a tough thing to be.

Even though this hypothetical cake may have been baked with already-used ingredients, they weren’t bad. In fact, the rest was fresh and new. It was Robin Hood meets William Wallace. I personally enjoyed—-thoroughly—-the new twist that still manages to plant its roots in firm reality, while giving us a taste of imagination and fantasy at the same time.

But at the heart of this film is the same key ingredient used in pretty much every other Pixar film: Family. This is one thing I treasure most in these movies, the value placed on family. It’s an essential element that is left out in so many other films. From The Incredibles to Finding Nemo, the idea is still the same. Family matters.

Family is the tie that holds everything together.

At the center of Brave is a legend about four brothers given the task of supporting an entire realm, like four pillars supporting a building. The tale is told of one brother who ignored his responsibility and instead chose total domination, collapsing the entire nation and nearly engulfing it in war. Within Merida’s kingdom, family is the tie that holds everything together, and is stronger than any sword. This is perhaps Brave‘s finest aspect, and certainly sets it apart from most other films.

And just like any good Disney movie, Brave also has a right amount of humor, properly placed and executed. Its whimsical nature lets you know that this is indeed a Disney film. Among its moral facets, the message is to be content with who you have, because they’re the only family you have or ever will have. When you make a mistake, always make sure to fix it. And especially, love each other for who they are instead for who they’re not.

While I can’t compare it to Cars or Toy Story, it still is a great film. It’s clean, fun, and I value it for what it’s worth. It’s rich in detail, subtle in its life lessons, and has a fantastic score to match. But above all, it teaches you to appreciate what you have.

Be sure to stay till after the credits for an amusing scene.

8 stars

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