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Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015

"Brave" is another Pixar classic

Thursday, November 29, 2012

When it comes to strong female characters in film, you can't beat having Disney on your side. But none have been stronger perhaps than its most recent big screen heroine Merida, the focus of the movie "Brave."

Merida (Kelly Macdonald) isn't your typical "waiting for my price to come" Scottish lass. She's fiery, bold and can wield a bow and arrow with the best of them. Receiving her beloved bow as a small child, her prowess with the weapon is evident early and leads to an encounter with the will-o'-the-wisp, ghostly blue lights that leads her into the woods.

Also during the encounter, a bear attacks her family, resulting in the loss of her father's leg and a life-long hatred against the beast.

As she reaches her teen years, her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), will betroth the headstrong Merida to another clan. The other clans come to the kingdom to compete in the Highland Games, with the first-born of each clan competing for the ultimate prize -- Merida's hand.

Since she's the first-born of the DunBroch clan, Merida declares herself able to win her own hand and promptly drops a whipping on the boys in the archery competition, including winning by splitting another clan's arrow in half for a perfect bullseye.

Not only does it cause chaos with the clans, this is the final straw for her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson) and the rift between conservative mother and rebellious daughter grows even wider. Before fleeing into the woods, Merida cuts her family tapestry in half, a physical sign of the distance between.

Enter the famed Disney witch. What Disney film would be complete without one, right?

Merida flees to the woods and once again encounters the will-o'-the-wisp light that lead her to a cottage with enchanted wooden objects, and you guessed it, our story's witch. The idea of fate is woven throughout "Brave" and once Merida discovers the woman is a witch asks for a spell to change her mother and in turn change her fate.

The cake she receives turns her mother, and by accident, her three brothers Hamish, Hubert and Harris into the thing her father hates the most -- bears.

As things continue to slip out of control, Merida and her mother return to the cottage and discover the spell will become permanent unless Merida can't reverse the spell by the second sunrise. The witch also offers a riddle on how to reverse the spell, that tells her she must mend the bond torn by pride.

The remainder of the film is spent following Merida as she struggles to find the meaning behind the riddle and be able to turn her mother back as her father and the other clans close in in an attempt to kill the wrong bear.

In the end, everything Merida has tried to bring her mother back fails as the second sunrise begins, but the simplest of things make her family whole once more. Sure I could tell you, but that would ruin the movie.

In the film's trailer, Merida asks "If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?" It's one sentence spoken by a teenage character, but its something every person since the dawn of time has asked themselves at one point or another. Isn't it just like Pixar to wrap a profound question inside a packaging that looks like a kids movie?

The movie is all about fate and fate played a part in Macdonald being cast as Merida. The role was originally to be played by Reese Witherspoon, but the actress had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. To be honest, it was the best thing for the movie.

Macdonald excels as the fiery independent Merida and seems made for the role. Additionally, Connolly and Thompson are equally as brilliant. Others actors lending their voices to the film are Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson and Pixar alum John Ratzenberger.

Pixar Trivia: Ratzenberger is the only voice-actor to be in each of Pixar's 13 films.

I'm a huge fan of "Brave," possibly because I have two young daughters that fell in love with the movie and the lead character. The story was wonderful and deep, and to those who say it is one of Pixar's weakest offerings, I say take another look. It's not your typical "kiddie" movie.

I was able to review the five-disc Ultimate Collector's Edition, which includes a DVD and Blu-ray copy, as well as a Blu-ray 3D edition, a special features disc and a digital copy. I recommend buying this edition of the film because it is stuffed, and I mean STUFFED, with extras. You get "La Luna," the theatrical short that played before the film in theaters as well as a treasure trove of extras that explore all aspect of the making of "Brave."

Final Cut: "Brave" weaves a complex story that entertains both children and adults. It's subject matter is heavy than most of it Pixar predecessors and shows the studio isn't just for kids.

Movie: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Extras: 5 out of 5 Stars


Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane, Craig Furguson

Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman

Writer: Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 93 minutes