Pixar have set a high bar for other studios to clear, equally they themselves now have to ensure that their output matches their own standard.
“Brave” is a deviation, a female protagonist not a buddy in sight and at it’s heart, a mother daughter relationship movie.
“Merida” (Voice – Kelly McDonald of Boardwalk Empire fame) is the princess daughter of Lord Fergus (Billy Connolly – Voice) and Lady Elinor (Emma Thompson – voice), king and queen of a mythical Scottish rugged clan of fighters and farmers. Unfortunately, despite being carefully groomed in the ways of a lady, “Merida” with a shock of beautiful red flowing hair, is more content riding and hunting in the forest on her trusty stead clutching a bow and arrow.
Tradition dictates that the head of the clans should provide a suitor by way of a tournament to decide who will win her hand. Most of the contenders are “Braveheart” rejects and being a modern free spirited girl, “Merida” is not so keen on this idea, resenting her life being pre-ordained, much to her mothers chagrin.
Father is of course just happy to get drunk, recount bear killing stories and admire the leg he lost in the fight, a “wee scratch”, in the Scottish way.
The story takes a turn for the fantastical when “Merida” makes a wish with a wizened ole’ witch of the woods (Julie Walters – Voice) after following will-o’-the-wisp, which is fair warning this would be a bad idea. Mother suddenly turns into a bear and all must be put right and wrapped up before sunrise on the third day, otherwise mum will be catching salmon at the local river for ever. Her three beautifully red headed wee triplet boys, forever with no mother to care for them.
It almost goes without saying that the animation is superb and state of the art, hair, water, skin tones and foliage, created almost photo realistically. The casting is strong, Connolly, Robbie Coltrane and Thompson are almost a given in these roles and none of the voice talent lets the side down. Unusually for Pixar characters, they do occasionally burst into song and there is a feeling of “Disneyfication” about the whole project, a slightly worrying trend. We will however acknowledge the boy triplets transformed into tiny bears, are cute indeed.
Will kids love it, yes of course. Bright colours, great chases and enough humour mixed into the keep the wee ankle biters engrossed and ready for bed afterwards.
Parents however may feel short changed, usually nobody would accuse Pixar of being safe and boring but strangely, this is their most formulaic story yet, despite the female protagonist. The story does not always gel and there are occasions where the older viewers will be looking at the clock or their mobile phone.
The film lacks a character to identify with and the offbeat story line does skew the story away from the norm into the realm of fairytales, something Pixar have not made forays into before.
Pixar do not make bad films and this pitches mid range, perhaps better than Cars 2 but falling well short of the classic films the studio is most loved for.
An interesting experiment but lets hope the Disney suits do not grab the iconic Pixar angle poised lamp and take the studio too far in the warm, fuzzy and bland direction.
Not classic Pixar but a solid entry into the animated CGI children’s movie canon and there is little to offend or upset the wee bairn’s here.
Skews younger than most Pixar releases but will be enjoyed by youngsters and parents who may be making dinner or multi-tasking at the same time.