For its thirteenth animated feature, Disney’s Pixar stretches into new creative territory, treading into a heretofore unexplored genre for the studio: The historical epic.
The result is “Brave,” an entertaining, largely successful endeavor whose greatest fault — ironically enough — is a lack of scope.
At times, “Brave” doesn’t feel big enough for its sweeping, historical backdrop, but rather, it feels strangely confined and limited; it feels at times, in fact, as if the story here might be just as well suited to one of Pixar’s short films.
“Brave,” however, successfully trades sweeping grandiosity for a narrowly-focused, satisfying, and relatable narrative about the unbreakable ties among family and — more specifically — between a parent and a child.
Kelly Macdonald (“No Country for Old Men”) voices Merida of Clan DunBroch, a free-spirited, red-headed teenage princess in the medieval Scottish Highlands.
Emma Thompson is Merida’s prudish, doting mother, Queen Elinor.
Merida has reached the age of betrothal as “Brave” opens, and although Merida’s free-spirited father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), is inclined to allow his daughter to follow her heart in matters of love and governance, Elinor won’t hear of it.
The Queen’s determined to see her daughter betrothed and married — regardless of love — to the oldest son of one of DunBroch’s three allied clans.
Such an arrangement, Elinor tells her daughter, will strengthen the alliance among the clans, helping avoid war and thereby keeping the realm intact and DunBroch in power. Such marriages, the Queens explains, are a princess’ duty.
Merida, however, being the fiery young woman she is, wants no part of the betrothal and tells her mother so — in no uncertain terms. Mother-and-daughter conflict ensues and quickly escalates into an epic war of wills, which ultimately finds Merida turning to a dodgy old witch (Julie Walters) for help.
The witch’s solution, unsurprisingly, turns out to be more than Merida bargained for.
Will Merida be able to save her mother before the witch’s spell becomes irreversible? Will she want to?
Anyone with teenage children and, especially, any mother who’s battled a strong-willed teenage daughter will readily relate to “Brave.”
On one level, Merida and her mother severely resent one another, and yet, in the end, the love between them is unavoidable and undeniable, and is ultimately greater than any antipathy between them. “Brave” manages to humorously and effectively convey that theme of “family as the most important tie” without becoming overly sappy or sentimental, and I suspect it will resonate for both parents and children alike.
More, although it suffers from a lack of scope, it also benefits from the same. This film breezes through its runtime and feels almost as if it might be a Pixar short.
“Brave” is lean and funny, efficient and heartfelt; it’s weaknesses certainly aren’t sufficient to recommend against it. It’s truly a film “for the whole family” in every sense of the term.
Runtime: 93 minutes
Rated PG for cartoonish violence
Rating System Explained: Rabies = 0; Yip = *; Bark = **; Howl = ***; Lone-wolf howl = ****; Leader of the pack = *****
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.