Thus far, the closest thing Pixar has birthed to a redheaded protagonist is cowgirl Jessie from the latter two “Toy Story” films. In “Brave,” the Pixar clan finally acknowledges the everyday trials and tribulations of a ginger princess whose destiny, she feels, needs a diversion. What’s more, Merida’s (voiced by Kelly Macdonald, “No Country for Old Men”) feathery-orange locks tell her story in its entirety — she has grit.


At Quality 16 and Rave

The opening scene exposes three things: One, the Highlands in Scotland are astoundingly scenic. Two, Merida’s ringlets are oversaturated in reds and oranges. And three, Merida’s mother, Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson, “Sense and Sensibility”) is not too fond of her daughter’s new birthday gift: a wood-carved archer’s bow.

“A bow?” Queen Elinor challenges, “She’s a lady!” This moment captures the free-spirit-versus-reactionary template which the script rests on.

A playful tug of war ensues as Merida pursues her passion for archery, while the Queen insists on a conventional princess-daughter — one who willingly chooses a suitor to wed from a measly group of three.

An arranged set of games play out to distinguish the most eligible bachelor, but Merida has alternate plans. On her own volition, Merida hijacks the limelight as she masterfully pierces arrows into the bull’s-eyes, leaving her “suitors” agape.

Her apparent act of defiance prompts a mommy-daughter altercation, resulting with Merida’s bow in the fiery flames. Livid, Merida strikes a deal with a bearded witch to change her fate. Too bad the haggling witch forgot to disclose a certain stipulation: the deal becomes permanent in two days.

The characters singlehandedly prevent this film from dissolution by mawkish elements: Merida’s mischievous triplet younger brothers remind audiences that Molly Ringwald as a hobbit is scarier than once thought. Her king father’s wooly mammoth stature is laughable as his booming voice resonates with that of Fat Bastard from the “Austin Powers” movies. It is these caricatures that allow a sincere story to unfold without forgetting the unreality of it all. Many consider Pixar films to be a “smarter medium” to teach lessons and to emote. “Brave” is a brave testament to that theory.

It rings the familiar Pixar tone of “new replacing old” but with profoundly sexist roots. Queen assumes the modern role of a stereotypical royal woman: vanity, tradition and submissiveness to men, which is then countered by wisdom and grace. Meanwhile, Merida embodies a postmodern character: arrogance, disobedience, audacity, countered by unfiltered ambition and liberty.

Without a doubt, the most incredible part of this movie is the soundtrack coupled with the “cinematography.” The closing sequence finds beauty in a swift camera overlooking the sinuous, verdant Scottish Highlands, while bagpipes and solo fiddles infuse the native air, and Merida parts us with bold words. In other words, “Brave” is reminiscent of the emotive moviemaking that one typically finds in live-action cinema.

Superficially, the film is a cookie-cutter Pixar film capable of producing laughs, tears and morals; but underneath, it complicates ideas we all contemplate: following the parent-skewed ideal or paving through untrodden terrain. “Brave” shows that a perfect blend of each breeds success.

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