Brave is the latest movie from Pixar, you may already be aware of it as their “Scottish” movie. Some people have already made their minds up about it, unhappy with the way that it depicts the Scottish people and the central, free-spirited, heroine (Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald). Let me allay your worries just now. The central heroine is yet another wonderful, rounded creation from Pixar. The Scottish people are pictured as a lively bunch (often with red hair) with fire in their bellies, quick to eat, drink and be merry and often ready to fight at the drop of a tartan hat. So everything is quite accurate then. Hey, as a Scotsman, I can honestly say that I wasn’t offended in the slightest and I thought that the film made the Highlands look as beautiful as possible. Even with the redheads there. *boom, boom*
It’s almost becoming redundant to say that every new Pixar release sets a new standard for gorgeous visuals and great animation but such is the case here, so assume that I said it anyway. From beginning to end, this is a work of art. In fact, the gorgeousness starts before the main event when, as usual, audiences get a treat in the form of a lovely short animation preceding the feature – this one called La Luna.
The story here will please anyone who has been waiting for Pixar to just go the whole hog and give us a pure fairytale. Merida is unhappy with her lot in life. She doesn’t want to live by the rules governing the conduct of a princess and she certainly doesn’t want to marry someone who wins her hand in some contest. Her parents (voiced by Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly) love her dearly but tradition dictates that the proper way of doing things has to come before personal happiness. After one particularly heated argument with her mother, Merida heads off into the countryside and stumbles upon a cottage inhabited by a witch (Julie Walters). The witch gives her a spell, in the form of a cake, that will change her fate but doesn’t tell her the particular effects of the spell. Messing with magic can be a dangerous thing, as Merida learns, and she quickly starts to realise the error of her ways and the fantastic qualities that her mother has within her while they try to reverse the spell.
Brenda Chapman started off the directing duties but this role was taken over by Mark Chapman, who apparently helped to shape the movie and give it some focus in time for the release. As with all Pixar movies, however, it’s more important to praise the whole team than it is to single out individuals. The animators have surpassed themselves with their work on both the environments and the characters, the pace is perfect and the balance of comedy, drama and tension is pitched perfectly, reminiscent of the very best Disney classics – light enough to work for children but with occasional moments of darkness that should make them at least slightly nervous.
The vocal cast are all perfect for every role. Kelly Macdonald shines as Merida (a role that was supposed to originally go to Reese Witherspoon – an actress I really like but I’m very glad that Macdonald ended up taking over) while Thompson and Connolly are both fantastic. Julie Walters is a lot of fun, as are the likes of Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd and Craig Ferguson. Okay, it’s not a 100% Scottish cast but there are no faked accents that stand out as horrible and it was nice to hear a number of olde Scottish sayings on the big screen in a major release that didn’t go out of the way to ensure everyone would understand every word. I’ll admit that even my Scottish ears were amusingly confounded by the ramblings of Kevin McKidd’s character.
I was one of the few people slightly underwhelmed by the highly praised Toy Story 3 (I’m sorry, I only gave it 6/10) and I’ve yet to see either of the Cars movies but I’ll puff up my chest, put my money where my mouth is (metaphorically speaking, I am Scottish and we don’t just throw money around) and state that this is the best Pixar movie in the last 5 years.
DIRECTOR: MARK ANDREWS, STEVE PURCELL, BRENDA CHAPMAN
WRITER: BRENDA CHAPMAN, MARK ANDREWS, STEVE PURCELL, IRENE MECCHI
STARS: KELLY MACDONALD, EMMA THOMPSON, BILLY CONNOLLY, JULIE WALTERS, ROBBIE COLTRANE, KEVIN MCKIDD, CRAIG FERGUSON
RUNTIME: 93 MINS APPROX