I’ve seen a lot of father-son male bonding movies over the years, but until today, I don’t reacall seeing a similar mother-daughter female bonding movies. That has changed with today’s movie, Pixar’s latest animated spectacle, Brave.
The film, set in Scotland in some ambiguous historical era, (the characters make reference to fighting both Romans and Vikings, who’s time as Scottish adversaries were separated by several centuries), centers on Merida (Kelly Macdonald) an princess with a talent for archery and some thoroughly modern ideas on marriage and female empowerment, and her relationship with her tradition-minded mother Elinor (Emma Thompson). When Merida learns that her parents have assembled the heads of the neighboring clans so that their sons can seek her hand in marriage, Merida sets out to find a way to change her fate. When she encounters an old witch (Julie Walters) she’s able to do just that. Of course, doesn’t quite work out as she had anticipated, thereby setting up the plot.
While I haven’t seen every Pixar movie, I’ve seen most of them, and there hasn’t been a bad one yet. This remains true, however, when judged against the other Pixar films, Brave definitely would rank towards the bottom. While the plot did manage to provide a few unexpected twists, including one bear of a twist that drives most of the plot, it was still, ultimately, predictable and by the book. Even if it’s the new “girls can do anything just as good as the boys” book, that tome is now as tired as anything from the “old” book ever was.
If I were to put the story aside, then this movie has a lot to offer. It’s visually spectacular, with deeply detailed backgrounds and the rendering of Merida’s unruly red hair demonstrating that Pixar’s animation technology has clearly taken another huge leap forward. As with all Pixar movies it’s loaded with subtle jokes and background gags that are worth more than a few laughs. The voice-acting is also first-rate, with Macdonald and Billy Connolly (as King Fergus), standing out as particularly praise-worthy, while the trio of Scottish clan leaders, headlined by Craig Ferguson (as Lord Macintosh), provide a constant source of humor.
Despite a somewhat faulty plot, Brave still manages to tread some new ground as a mother-daughter bonding movie. As I’m neither a mother nor a daughter, it didn’t particularly resonate with me. Sill, it is overall a fun way to pass 90 minutes, with a good mix of humor adventure and a new standard for visuals in animation. It’s certainly worth seeing.