Movie Review: Brave

Kelly Macdonald voices Merida in 'Brave'
Kelly Macdonald voices Merida in 'Brave' - Photo ©Disney/Pixar

Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion

Pixar returns from their Cars 2 dip into mediocrity with Brave, the story of a fiercely independent Scottish princess whose desire to change her mother’s mind leads to a witch’s spell gone wrong.

As always, before getting to the feature film, I’ll give a quick recap of the short that accompanies it. In this case, it’s La Luna, which was nominated for an Oscar in the animated short film category last year. It involves a little boy who accompanies his father and grandfather to work for the first time. They’re the ones responsible for ensuring the moon appears in its correct phase of the night sky. It’s cute and falls in line with the type of thing the Oscars like to nominate, but it felt a bit forgettable and lacked the overt humor that have made the Pixar shorts so engaging.

Onto Brave itself, there are two elements that work spectacularly in its favor. One, casting Kelly Macdonald as the voice of Princess Merida was spot on. She imbues the heroine with the right mix of femininity and defiant spirit. The other voices are decent, employing the likes of Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane and Craig Ferguson, but no one particular shines through like Macdonald.

As for the other thing Pixar got right, it’s the general aesthetic and animation style of the movie. The brilliant greens, fiery red hair, and damp but lush landscape of Scotland are all on display here. It’s quite a lovely film to look at … in 2D that is. The first thing to mention in terms of missing the mark is the studio’s latest attempt at the third dimension. They started to go along with the technological craze with the release of 2009’s Up and have yet to make any of their films feel immersive using 3D. If anything, wearing the tinted glasses only dulls the rich color palette and this is definitely one you can feel safe in saving those extra few dollars and buying some candy at the concession stand instead.

What else missed the mark? Well, almost everything else sadly; and I emphasize the “sad” because like the rest of the world, I’ve come to expect a certain level of excellence from Pixar films. Of course, their string of successes was bound to come to an end, and with the Cars 2 speed bump in the rear view mirror, returning to an original story brought hope. However, the story never shifts into that next gear and the movie is rather slight in its profundity. This is simply a tale of a girl coming of age and the realization by both mother and daughter that their growing differences are actually a sign that they’re more alike than they realize.

In short, this is a perfectly serviceable Disney movie masquerading as a Pixar movie and yes there is a difference. If you want an easy comparison scale using the latest examples from the two studios, this is better than Cars 2 (not that it’s hard to be) but lacks the depth and general entertainment of Tangled (whose 3D was far better). This trip to Scotland is also a bit violent at times ensuring Brave earns its PG rating with its rather vicious bear fights (seriously, bringing kids under 6 or 7 to the theater may not be a good idea).

To sum up, if you’ve got kids you have no choice anyway but see this in 2D and save yourself the money and the annoyance of 3D. If you don’t have kids but love Pixar movies, it’s not that this isn’t worth watching but it doesn’t need a trip to the theaters and can safely await the home market. Anyone outside of those demographics can simply go see Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.


Brave hits theaters on June 22, 2012 and is rated PG for some scary action and rude humor.