Disney/Pixar’s latest film Brave opens with an animated short called La Luna, which is so stunningly crafted and inventive in storyline that one cannot help but feel that Brave itself might have a hard job surpassing it. But surpass it it does.
Set in Scotland, the story surrounds the free-spirited Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) and her struggles against her overbearing mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Feeling constrained by her royal duties, Merida longs for her freedom, often taking to the wilderness to practice shooting with her bow and arrows. Her mother disapproves of such behaviour, however, and informs Merida that suitors from fellow clans will soon be visiting in order to win her hand in marriage.
Desperate to change her fate, Merida therefore strikes a bargain with a mysterious witch for a spell that will change her mother’s mind. But when the spell takes effect, it is not exactly in the way that Merida imagined…
Despite an extremely original storyline, there is no denying that the action in Pixar’s latest film doesn’t flow quite as well as it does in their previous hits such as Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. and is at times slightly stilted. However, there is still a lot of comedy packed in, as scenes such as King Fergus (Billy Connolly) chasing a bear through the castle are so silly and slapstick in nature that you cannot help but laugh out loud.
Although Brave is driven by a generally extremely strong cast, Connolly is arguably a stand-out as the incompetent King, whose impression of a stroppy teenage Merida is particularly noteworthy for its hilarity.
From its very opening scene, the film is also filled with incredibly touching moments, as we see the Queen worrying about a young Merida using her trademark bow for the first time. Indeed, any mother and daughter would be able to relate to the relationship between Elinor and Merida, whether it be their more affectionate moments or their raging arguments that are unfolding onscreen.
And from Merida’s wild and curly hair, to the rich and vivid portrayal of Scottish landscape, Pixar again raise the bar in terms of animation graphics.
The only real fault of the film is its slightly cheesy ending, which is rather over-milked in nature. However, by deviating from the typical father-daughter relationship which Disney so often focusses upon, and placing emphasis on a maternal bond instead, Pixar themselves take a ‘brave’ new step in this film, and one which certainly pays off overall.