Going into Disney/Pixar’s Brave, like a lot of people, I was expecting a different movie. The internet doesn’t help in this case, particularly YouTube where the same comments are caked on: “It’s just like How to Train Your Dragon”, “The accents are too heavy!”, “This looks like Brother Bear”. While those aren’t wrong, they’re aren’t right. First of all, Dreamwork’s How to Train Your Dragon focuses on dragons and vikings - you won’t see either in this film as there’s a completely different story. Secondly, the accents weren’t bad. In fact, I found that it as easy to understand them throughout the entire film. The voice over artists did a terrific job giving each character their own personality. Thirdly, I would agree that this film was somewhat based on the idea of Brother Bear. That’s not to say that this movie is unoriginal. There will elements from this film that I enjoyed a lot more.
Brave takes place in the Scottish highlands of DunBroch. The Queen Elinor knows that in order for her Merida to take the throne, she must focus on her princess duties. However, Merida would much rather be out in the forest firing her bow at targets. When the time comes for Merida to pick an eligible suitor, she refuses and wins the very game that was set to win her heart. Much to the Queen’s dismay, Merida breaks an ancient tradition and runs away where she meets the Will O’ the Wisps that guide her to a wood carver’s cottage. Without giving out much, this is where Merida believes she changes her fate.
That being said, Brave is visually stunning eye-porn. Pixar has truly outdone itself with almost every aspect of this film. I felt like I was riding Soarin’ of DunBroch because everything was so incredibly detailed that it hard to believe it was computer animated. While the incredible landscapes, water, and architecture are something to gawk at, I could not take my eyes off of Merida’s hair. This is coming from a girl who has naturally curly hair, watching Merida’s curls bounce around made me proud. I cannot even begin to fathom how long that must have taken to animate it, especially when wet.
The humor is great. I imagined that after watching the trailers the jokes would become a tad bit annoying. Watching them in the film felt different because you understood where the jokes were coming from and they were delivered in such a way so that they weren’t forced. Merida’s father King Fergus and the three lords are such great comic relief in the film as well. One scene in particular, was meeting the lords because they each have their own presence. Whenever I think about physical humor, I always refer to the scene in Toy Story 2 when Woody walks out of a cardboard box and tips his hat. He’s very charismatic in the way he moves. I am pleased to say that there’s a lot of expression, attitude, and movement in this movie, specifically with Queen Elinor and Hamish, Hubert, and Harris (who don’t even mutter a word).
The story moves at a fine pace - the scenes didn’t lag, they got the point, and were enjoyable. It was easy to understand, but it wasn’t laid out on a silver platter. Something that John Lasseter pointed out is that Merida is her hair, she’s wild and free. The Queen’s hair is bound and always kept confined. As I mentioned earlier, watch for the hair because it’s stunning but also symbolic. And in great Pixar fashion this movie had a theme - sacrifice.
Unlike Disney fairy tales, the characters in Brave did not break into song. In one scene, King Fergus was singing the story of the Mor’du, but it never felt like a musical number. He was telling a story to his friends. It was interesting to see how Pixar would handle that sort of situation and it felt a little more realistic.
Patrick Doyle did a phenomenal job with the film score, I have yet to take it off repeat. The score is at times tear-jerking, entertaining, and it carries the story along. One of my favorite songs on the soundtrack is ‘Not Now’ because there’s a lot of emotion and suspense in that scene and I believe Patrick captured it perfectly.
Overall, I really enjoyed Brave and I highly recommend it. This is Pixar’s first take on a Disney fairy tale, but I also sensed a lot of Studio Ghibli influence (especially the Witch). There’s a lot of heart, tradition, and mystery to this movie and I find that people will be able to connect with all the well-thought-out characters.
Be sure to:
1. Look for the Pizza Planet truck in the Witch’s cottage
2. Stay after the credits for an extra scene
3. Bring tissue!