Despite an insanely well-rendered crop of red-ringletted hair, Brave is a cute film that makes all the right noises. But just that many, mind you. Missing is the sense of joyous fulfilment -- and handkerchief-need -- brought on usually by Pixar films, as is the complexity in character. Brave is essentially Freaky Friday pretending to be Mulan: and both those Disney productions were decidedly more entertaining.
The tale of a rebellious princess who likes bows more than she likes boys, Brave starts off promisingly well as a young girl's story, veering unexpectedly into fairytale when she chances upon a witch with a woodwork fetish. Soon, we're knee-deep in fairytale territory, after which the film becomes a peculiar mother-daughter tale with surprisingly little eventual insight.
Scottish accents and backdrops are both accurate as well as charming, but by the time the film wraps up, it doesn't feel like its earned its happy ending.
As heroines go, Princess Merida is a plucky character, but her fantastically
flaming hair is brighter than she can hope to be. Pixar, with its gallery of evocative protagonists and richly textured supporting characters, has spoilt us, and this set of highland stereotypes never quite wins our affection -- no matter how boisterous Billy Connolly makes the father. Oh, there is unquestionably much cuteness, but Pixar films have never been this simplistically structured, this Bollywood 101 in their drama. Visually, Brave is an absolute triumph, but it's unlikely that this film will inspire many a young girl in any way.
(Also, the film takes Merida's three duckling-sized kid brothers entirely for granted, with striking coldness. Looking like Dash from The Incredibles, the siblings are treated rather cruelly, neglected by all. They don't even make it to the family portraits. Certainly this is the girl's film, but I feel the tykes deserve a voice.)
Tragically, it is nothing more than the visuals: just another cartoon, something that could have come from Dreamworks or Fox. Brave is not the annual Pixar event that enthralls us, and as an adult who takes great joy in being predictably overwhelmed by the tablelamp-hopping wizards each summer, it's a crushing disappointment. Take the kids if you like, sure, but I do recommend renting Mulan instead.