Pixar has produced some of the best animated films ever made, and even the worst offerings are better than the work of most rival studios. However, after seeing trailers for Brave, I found myself wondering whether it would live up to my expectations. People running into walls or being hit in the groin are usually there to get a few cheap laughs and I expect more from a Pixar movie.
I shouldn't have worried.
Brave is aimed at a younger audience than Pixar's best work like Ratatouille and Up. Although it does contain deeper themes, such as conflict between mother and daughter, and dealing with society's expectations, the story is easy to follow. There were quite a few small children present in the theater when I saw the movie and I could hear them laughing and curiously asking questions about the characters. It also worked for me, and I'm by no means a small child.
A few of the action scenes and some of the scenes set in the dark forest might worry very young children, but I don't think there's anything frightening enough to stop anyone seeing Brave.
Those who were complaining that Pixar hasn't featured a female protagonist finally have a reason to celebrate; Merida (Macdonald) is featured heavily throughout, and she's a princess, although not in the traditional Disney style. You will hear a couple of songs, and there is a witch in the story, but Brave is not simply rehashing the formula exhausted in Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Instead, Merida is like a tougher version of Rapunzel from Tangled.
Brave is a coming-of-age tale set in ancient Scotland. The main clan-leaders all have sons, and Merida is expected to marry one of them. Unfortunately, she doesn't feel ready for marriage and wants time to discover how she feels about adult pursuits. All she really wants to do is enjoy her childhood, ride her horse, and practice her archery. This is essentially a story about a girl trying to change her fate.
Some of the supporting characters are funny. Her potential suitors are an interesting bunch of misfits, and they supply a few laughs early in the story. Merida's three younger brothers appear regularly and are used in very inventive ways.
Be prepared to hear Scottish accents throughout the movie. It reminded me somewhat of How to Train Your Dragon in that respect. I didn't find myself rooting for Merida as strongly as I rooted for Remy in Ratatouille because the outcome never really felt in doubt. Although Merida faces considerable peril, I never suspected that things would end badly.
The voice acting was particularly good. Merida's father (Connolly) stole a lot of scenes and was the source of much of the humor. Kelly Macdonald did well as Merida and kept her likable, even though some of her actions were misguided. I also noticed how effective Patrick Doyle's score was. Unlike most Pixar movies, Brave is full of action, and the music enhanced those sequences considerably.
The opening five minutes provided some of the strongest scenes in the movie as we were able to see Merida as a small girl and the relationship she had with her parents. Other magical moments included her encounter with will o' the wisps in the forest. Both of these elements reminded me of Studio Ghibli works, but Brave couldn't maintain that high standard for the whole movie.
What we are left with is an enjoyable 90 minutes with plenty of laughs. There's less substance than that found in the best Pixar movies, but it's still a worthy addition and I will buy the Blu-ray when it is released. The overall look of the animation does match Pixar's excellent standards and it's hard to imagine it looking any better. Be prepared for a few cheap laughs, but don't miss it in theaters. I saw the 3D version and I don't think it added anything to the experience, so stick to the 2D version if you want to save a few bucks.
I was pleasantly surprised by the full movie after being disappointed by the rather formulaic trailers. I should also mention that La Luna, the latest short from Pixar, airs immediately before Brave. That's well worth your time too.
It feels as though Pixar's recent movies (ever since Disney bought them, that is) are not as fulfilling as they once were.
The movie centers around a young woman whose parents arranged for her to be married to someone she doesn't even know or likes. Deciding to compete against all odds, she "fights" for her own hand, claiming her own freedom to choose. Sure, the plot is predictable, most of the humorous situations are really funny, but there's something that feels 1990s in this. The feminist message feels old, a few steps backwards, in fact. All this negativism said, the positive outweighs its counterparts with quirky dialogs, stunning animation and wonderful characters. This feels like "How to train your Dragon" without the dragons... as if Pixar and Dreaworks were entered into a personal war to upstage the other, and if you ever thought that, you may not be too wrong.
I remember a time when Toy Story was a surprise for kids and adults alike, all up until Toy Story 3 back in 2010. Since then, well, let's say the visual quality is as beautiful as ever, with many interesting characters and all, but ("Brave" included) there's a part of a soul that's missing, something that made Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles, Wall-e, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and more to be so cherished and watchable over and over again.
The second disc, hosting most of the special features, doesn't contain a lot. It looks like a lot, but there's a lot left to be desired. Almost no one from the voice acting is interviewed, and it focuses majorly on the technical feats achieved by the Pixar gang. Don't get me wrong, I love knowing about the technical aspect of things, but having so few meaningful featurettes makes me wish we were back in the old days when special features covered almost the entire production and didn't need to be too long to justify a second disc.
"Brave" is entertaining, good fun, but is riddled with something Disney-esque, which doesn't help the movie feel entirely "Pixar"'s own project. If that is the case, I wish Disney would leave them create alone without having a word to say in the future. It's starting to hurt the quality and it's been years I haven't watched a Pixar movie in the theatres... 5 years to be exact.
I usually like more unorthodox films, especially suspenseful or darkly comic ones...
...but I also LOVE Disney/Pixar movies. Some of my favourites are Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, and Up, but I've seen many more. Brave falls into the middle of the pack as far as the narrative goes, but is still visually appealing and is worth a few laughs.
Brave follows the adventures of Merida, a lovely Scottish lass who's strong-willed and free-spirited. Her parents have decided to marry her off to one of the local chieftains' sons, but she has others ideas for her young adulthood, archery and equestrianism being among her top priorities. The only way she can conceive of to stop her wedding from going through is to seek help from a mysterious woman in the woods...which has unintended consequences (who would have thought?).
Merida's plan goes pear-shaped, hijinks ensue, and a tidy resolution occurs. The storyline is extremely basic and overall lacks suspense and danger, which is not to discount the heroine's courageous deeds.
Where Brave's strengths lie are:
1) Its artistic rendering. Beautiful landscapes, textures, and colours. Sorry to the otaku out there, but even the best anime has nothing on what Disney/Pixar are doing these days.
2) Its message (and I'm not one for trite morality tales). Disney reinvents its "princess" archetype with a plucky, pretty, modest, and quick-witted young woman who takes charge of her fate--unlike the princesses of yore, whose destiny and raison-d'etre were tied to the prince. This movie's themes are compromise, making amends, and considering one's actions on others.
3) Its humour. Billy Connelly (who voices Merida's father) is responsible for most of the laughs throughout the movie. It's unfortunate the writers couldn't come up with a few more gags and jokes for the rest of the film.
All in all, Brave should be purchased by those who want to add to their collection or who have young children looking for a good mix of action, cuteness, and humour (and who aren't picky about things like a well-crafted plot). For the rest of us, though, a simple rental will suffice.
BRAVE  [3D Blu-ray + 2D Blu-ray + Bonus 2D Blu-ray] [UK Release] A Triumph of Animation!
PIXAR Animation Studios, the creator of ‘Toy Story 3,’ whisks you away on an astonishing adventure to an ancient land full of mystery and tradition. Bursting with heart, unforgettable characters and PIXAR’s signature humour.
Take a heroic journey with Princess Merida, a skilled archer and headstrong daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. Determined to carve her own path in life, Princess Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the unruly and uproarious lords of the land. When Princess Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos in the kingdom, she must harness all of her skills and resources, including her clever and mischievous triplet brothers, to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late, and discover the meaning of true bravery. It’s legendary on a PIXAR/Disney Blu-ray with never-before-seen bonus features!
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 2013 85th Academy Awards®: Won: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year for Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. American Cinema Editors: Won: Best Edited Animated Feature Film for Nicholas C. Smith, A.C.E. BAFTA® Awards: Won: Best Animated Film. Critics' Choice Awards: Nominated: Best Animated Feature. Nominated: Best Song for Mumford & Sons and Birdy for "Learn Me Right." Golden Globe® Awards: Won: Best Animated Feature Film for Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. Grammy Awards: Nominated: Best Song Written for Visual Media for Mumford & Sons and Birdy for the song "Learn Me Right." International Film Music Critics Association Awards: Nominated: Best Original Score for an Animated Feature for Patrick Doyle.
Voice Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Sally Kinghorn, Eilidh Fraser, Peigi Barker, Steven Cree, Steve Purcell, Callum O'Neill, Patrick Doyle and John Ratzenberger
Directors: Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell (co-director)
Producers: Andrew Stanton, John Lasseter, Katherine Sarafian, Mary Alice Drumm and Pete Docter
Screenplay: Brenda Chapman (story), Irene Mecchi, Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell
Composer: Patrick Doyle
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio: English: 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English: 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, English: 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, French: 5.1 Dolby Digital, English: 2.0 Dolby Digital, French: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Russian: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Castilian Spanish: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Catalan Spanish: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Ukrainian: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Kazakh: 2.0 Dolby Digital, and English: Audio Described English
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Russian, Castilian, Spanish and Ukrainian
Running Time: 93 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 3
Studio: PIXAR Animation Studios / Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Chafing under the domination of her mother Queen Elinor [Emma Thompson], Princess Merida [Kelly Macdonald] isn’t interested in being groomed for the throne and is definitely not ready to be betrothed to one of a trio of grisly young men from three other Scottish clans. So, she happens upon The Witch [Julie Walters] in the forest who offers her a spell-ridden cake for her mother which Princess Merida hopes will change her mother’s point of view about her daughter’s future. But as is often the case with magic, what appears fool proof on the surface goes awry as one bite of the cake turns her mother into a bear. With the fearsome bear Mor’du having bitten off her father King Fergus’s [Billy Connolly] leg as a young man, Princess Merida knows bears aren’t popular around the castle, so she hastens to get her mother away from the clans and hopes she can find the witch to reverse the spell. When that fails, Princess Merida and her mother find their bond becomes stronger in their common search for an answer to her dilemma, but time is running out to change her mother back as the spell becomes permanent after two days.
The story flows smoothly as we watch Princess Merida grow from a young girl to a young woman becoming a proficient archer along the way. Even with the setting of 13th century Scotland, much about the dynamics between the parents and children in the movie have a distinctly modern ring to them, and Princess Merida’s recalcitrance at being forced into something she’s not emotionally ready to undertake with no possibility of stating her own case will be easy to identify with for almost any audience, especially with Princess Merida’s showdown with her three suitors in an archery tournament is one of the film’s high points. While the writers get a bit too cute with The Witch’s personality in her two sequences, she’s undeniably entertaining if a bit too modern to fit comfortably among these rustic warriors of old. The film’s production design, however, is simply jaw dropping as Scotland comes alive in these majestic, detailed CGI renderings, and the directors use their ravishing settings to stage a number of memorable sequences. The highlight of the film remains a bucolic sequence when Queen Elinor as Mum-bear learns to forage for food in a stream where gorgeous animation provides both tender moments and slapstick comedy in the best PIXAR tradition.
Kelly Macdonald is full of feisty sassiness and plenty of pluckiness for Princess Merida, and her Scottish brogue, as is the case with the other Scottish actors hired for the film, is never too thick to prevent understanding of what she’s saying. Emma Thompson has a noble carriage and the gentle art of diplomacy as Queen Elinor while Billy Connolly’s braying and clumsy King Fergus is always a real treat. The three Scottish clan leaders putting their sons up for selection are played in the expected extroverted manner by Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, and Craig Ferguson. Julie Walters has all kinds of fun with the eccentric witch who moonlights as a wood carver, and bears are a specialty.
The computer animation is, of course, spectacular, with meticulous attention paid to the smallest of details. The performances are fine, too, infused with enough enthusiasm and warmth to make the characters as dimensional as the images they populate. And after a couple of sequels and there's that Disney influence once again, and it's nice to see PIXAR return to an original story that transports us to a foreign setting and simpler time, and give young girls a spunky role model they can learn from and emulate.
At 93 minutes, 'BRAVE' is one of PIXAR's shortest films, but despite its efficient storytelling, it still possesses a fair amount of depth. Though the characters it depicts may reside on a rarefied plane, the issues they confront are universal and timeless, and the ultimate message emphasizing the strong bonds of family, however trite, is presented in a poignant and effective manner. 'BRAVE' may not be as bold as its title, but it is a good solid PIXAR effort, celebrating not just girl power, but the power of understanding and mutual respect.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The film’s theatrical widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 is faithfully rendered in this awesome 1080p encoded image. Whether in 3D or 2D, the images are breathtakingly beautiful. The details in hair, clothes, a tapestry, especially where you can see individual strands, trees, moss, stone, and other objects just defy description. Colours are bold and deeply saturated with Merida’s red, red hair coming close to but never quite blooming. Black levels are rich and deep, and the image is as perfect as one should expect. As with most PIXAR 3D films, outward projections are not of primary importance to the animators though there are arrow tips and hands that reach beyond the frame for split seconds. But the sense of depth in the image is often quite staggering, and the 3D version of the film is much more interesting visually with its complex placement of people, animals, and objects within their environments which 3D exploits to the maximum.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD sound mix is a miracle of audio design with split sound effects occupying the fronts and rears at an almost constant pace. There are pans across and through the sound field, and the rear back channels are used to make smooth transitions for sounds at the rear of the field. Patrick Doyle’s music and the Gaelic ballads of Julie Fowlis get remarkably fluid renderings in the fronts and rears aiding immeasurably in establishing the time and place of the action. Dialogue has been beautifully recorded and has been placed in the centre channel.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Director Mark Andrews, co-director Steve Purcell, Editor Nick Smith, and story supervisor Brian Larsen: All four sit down for a lively commentary that allows us to see inside the creative minds of the filmmakers. From an abandoned alternate opening and a homage to 'The Sound of Music' to character insights and scene analyses, the quartet shares a wealth of interesting information in an easy-going, accessible style. They talk about, among other things, adding fresh elements to stereotypical figures, such as princesses and witches, various concepts that never materialised, balancing comedy and dramatic intensity, managing the movie's pace, and the incredible amount of trial and error that go into making an animated film. Children may find the discussion a bit dull, but adults, especially animation fans like me, found this commentary a worthwhile time investment.
Special Feature: Pixar Short Film: La Luna  [1080p] [7:00] A fable of a young boy who is coming of age in the most peculiar of circumstances. Tonight is the very first time his Papa and Grandpa are taking him to work. In an old wooden boat they row far out to sea, and with no land in sight, they stop and wait. A big surprise awaits the little boy as he discovers his family's most unusual line of work. Should he follow the example of his Papa, or his Grandpa? Will he be able to find his own way in the midst of their conflicting opinions and timeworn traditions? This exudes a subtle sense of wonder and is filled with beautiful imagery. ‘La Luna’ was nominated at the 84th Academy Awards® for Best Animated Short Film.
Special Feature: Behind-the-Scenes [1080p] [50:00] Eight behind-the-scenes documentaries are available on the feature film disc. "Brave Old World” follows the PIXAR team on a research trip to Scotland. Merida and Elinor digs into the lead female characters with the voice cast, designers and animators. "Bears" should be even more self-explanatory to those who've seen the film. “Brawl in the Hall” looks at the development and animation of the comedic clash of the clans. “Wonder Moss” delves into the complex mathematical creation of the movie's background moss, something most people will take for granted. “Magic” dissects Brave's fairy tale roots and magical elements. “Clan Pixar” introduces the artists and animators, touching on their daunting task and intense efforts. And “Once Upon a Scene” offers a glimpse into various versions of Brave's opening, key scenes and story.
Special Feature: Fergus & Mor’du: An Alternate Opening [1080p] [7:00] A cautionary fable about the pitfalls of jealousy, ambition, and forsaking one's family, this dark tale ties nicely into the plot and themes of 'BRAVE' as it charts the development of the film's scariest villain.
Special Feature Documentary: Fallen Warriors [1080p] [2:00] This montage of deleted shots and snippets celebrates the hard work that goes into even the tiniest sequences in an computer animated film.
Special Feature Documentary: Dirty Hairy People [1080p] [4:00] This piece shows how the animators stayed true to the film's time period with regard to personal hygiene and appearance. Rotted teeth, unkempt hair, and sullied clothing are a few of the challenges they faced in composing their subjects.
Special Feature Documentary: It is English . . . Sort of [1080p] [4:00] This documentary showcases the numerous Scottish actors who lent their voice talents to 'BRAVE,' and examines the various dialects they employ, as well as some of the foreign Scottish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the film.
Special Feature Documentary: Angus [1080p] [3:00] Animating a Clydesdale horse wasn't easy, and here we learn about the particulars of hair, movement, and body language and all vital components of Princess Merida's horse that needed to be subtly but accurately conveyed to the audience.
Special Feature Documentary: The Tapestry [1080p] [4:00] This piece shows us what went into animating this critical element of the 'BRAVE' story that symbolises family unity and structure. Achieving the proper texture and movement of this object required a surprising amount of research and various trials.
Special Feature Documentary: Promotional Pieces [1080p] [15:00] A collection of five fun promos and three trailers from the U.S.A, Japan, and Great Britain that comprise this section. “Feast Your Eyes” [4:00] is a clever, amusing, and visually dazzling sampler of 'Brave' characters and personalities; “Relics” [1:00] introduces us to the lovable, bumbling, comedic trio that comes to court; “Clan Dun Broch” [1:00] introduces us to Princess Merida's family via a vigorous swordfight with her dad; “Launch” [0:30] shows us Merida's archery skills and the mischievous nature of her brothers; and “Flying Guts Theatre” [1:00] gives us the backstory of the courtship of Queen Elinor and Fergus as acted out by their three boys.
Special Feature: Art Gallery [1080p] More than 470 images are spread across five galleries under the headings Characters [178 images]; Colour Keys [95 images]; Development Art [96 images]; Environments [65 images] and Graphics [37 images]. Different viewing methods and bookmarking capabilities allow you to somewhat tailor the viewing experience to your personal preference.
Sneak Previews: ‘Wreck-It Ralf’ 3D [1080p], ‘Monster University’ 3D [1080p] and ‘Planes’ 3D [1080p].
Finally, PIXAR finally shows its feminine side at last with its first princess computer animated film, but 'BRAVE' is no shrinking violet. With as much muscle as its more masculine Pixar counterparts, this captivating portrait of wilful, free-thinking lass in 11th century Scotland combines action and mysticism with a relatable emotional core to produce a period piece that's refreshingly contemporary and utterly entertaining. And like all the Blu-rays in the PIXAR repertoire, this Blu-ray disc shows off the computer animated film in the best possible light. A drop-dead gorgeous video transfer, which is even more mesmerising in 3D, exceptional audio, and a wealth of supplements spread across two Blu-ray discs make 'Brave' a dazzling and memorable home theatre experience. Unlike Merida's archery skills, the film may not always hit the bull’s-eye, but this 3 disc set sure does, and without question, it comes with very high praise and now it has gone pride of place in my ever increasing PIXAR Blu-ray Collection, especially the 3D versions. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom