And we’re back, having bravely gone where no man had braved before (please qualify statement – ed.) If you missed our preview last week, we wrote about Disney’s and Pixar’s new collaboration, Brave. For a refresher, here’s the trailer, and read on for our review.
If you must know one thing, here it is – Brave is a very fun show to watch. The alchemy of Disney and Pixar magic is a winner here, working Pixar’s subversion of the status quo into the classic Disney princess tale. And Merida isn’t the classic Disney princess – it’s clear how different she is when you see her wild, unkempt red hair. (The only time her hair is put into place, It breaks free anyway.)
There’s a lot to love about Brave – the beautiful Scottish scenery, the weaving in of mythology and mysticism on top of what could have been a straightforward tale about Scottish tribes and a, and how the characters are lovingly voiced and rendered. It’s a nice balance between taking the McMickey out of Scots (incomprehensible accents, names with new modern meanings – you’ll get what I mean when you watch it) and showing off Scottish tradition with pride. Maybe a hot-blooded Scot might take offence – but I think it’s all in the spirit of fun (Scots, feel free to protest)
As mentioned, this takes the usual Disney princess story and adds enough contemporary elements without sounding like an overbearing treatise on the evils of tradition. Merida fights tradition by refusing to have an arranged marriage not because her heart already belongs to another – but because she’s still having so much fun doing the fun stuff. When three suitors turn up on her front door she kicks tradition’s ass, gets scolded, runs away, and then does something even worse in anger. Adventure and hilarity ensues, and where one might expect the film to fall into conservative values or try to find a simple common ground, the film subverts many expectations before reaching its conclusion.
I’m sure some would still find Brave’s depiction offensive in some way – but in the context of Brave what the creators have done is, well, brave and clever. At times where you would expect Merida to fall in love with a handsome stranger that convinces the mother that arranged marriages are unnecessary, or when other films might find a common ground between tradition being liberal, it doesn’t happen. Merida stands apart from the previous “strong female characters” by not needing a love interest at all before the completion of “self” – a completion that instead involves the family unit.
Without the feminist subtext there’s still lots to enjoy in Brave – baby bears and crazy witches and more than a few easter-eggs / in-jokes that might leave you the only one laughing in the cinema. With it, maybe it’ll inspire little girls to not just focus on a prince charming. It’s something that everyone can enjoy – so what else can I say? The kids will love it.
Score: A more than brave effort