A young girl draws back her bow to loose another arrow in defiance of a tradition that she does not believe. No, I am not describing the recent smash it, The Hunger Games; this is a pivotal scene in the latest computer animated film from Disney/Pixar, Brave.The movie tells the story of a young Scottish princess in medieval times, Merida, who from a young age is much more interested in having fun and shooting her bow and arrow than learning the ways of becoming a proper princess. In all respects, this is an all too familiar setup for just about any princess fairytale, however Brave fails to live up to the high standards of previous Disney princess classics.
Brave starts off strong by introducing the audience to a beautiful world (the animation is some of the best I have ever seen, characters are masterfully designed) filled with a terrific cast of characters. In addition to the red-haired princess interested in mischief and adventure, there is also a boisterous and fun-loving king; a caring but proper queen (voiced by Emma Thompson); three crazy and hilarious little brothers; and a host of other odd characters from around the kingdom. Combined these characters make for several funny moments during the first half-hour of the movie (it's 100 minutes in total). The movie then takes a dramatic turn and even though all the laughs are not gone the movie is no longer as light-hearted. This point in the movie is also about the same time that Brave's story-telling becomes more risky and unfortunately hurts what started off as very promising. In an effort to be different, Disney/Pixar makes the story too complex and frankly starts to utilize plot devices from other movies that were subpar on their own (no spoilers here but it seems like writers may have seen Brother Bear (2003) one too many times). This is not to say that Brave is not enjoyable, simply that it does not capitalize on the opportunity to showcase the capabilities of a couple of strong female characters (a rarity in movies). Brave continues on its winding path and to its credit works hard to provide audiences with a moral at the end. In the end, the problem is there are too many morals trying to come through in Brave: love your family; make your own destiny; accept responsibility; be brave. Alone each is a great message; together they make for less than great story-telling and an overall satisfactory but lack-luster movie-going experience.
Since Brave is promoted as a movie for the whole family I decided to take my whole family to see it. My wife and three kids all enjoyed the movie, but they had a few reactions that I feel are important to share with anyone thinking about seeing it with children. This movie has several moments of intense action involving bears and frightened all my kids to a certain degree. My son Tommy (the 8 year-old) liked the movie a lot, but went so far as to say Brave should be re-titled, "Scary Bear Movie". My daughter (she just turned 6) is a hard person to please but she liked the princess story and basically hid her face every time a bear appeared. My youngest (he is almost 5) was very sad toward the end of the movie when things looked the worst and needed his mommy's reassurance that everything would turn out fine. Thankfully it did all turn out well and Princess Merida can ride off into the sunset. Please make sure to follow "Parental Guidance" part of PG if you do decide to see Brave in the theater or on DVD.
Final Cut: Brave is a beautiful movie with some funny characters, but the story leaves the audience a little unfulfilled and at times, kids a little too scared. Wait to see Brave on DVD or Blu-Ray in a few months. It is a good flick but not something you need to rush out and see in the theater.
Grade: B -
Did you see Brave? What was your opinion? Did your kids like it or find it a little too scary? Please share your thoughts below.