The first film from Pixar with a female protagonist is well worth seeing, even if only to celebrate a positive and complex portrayal of the mother-daughter relationship represented in the film.
The story, which screenwriter Brenda Chapman said was fashioned in the style of The Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen, is of headstrong Scottish princess Merida (voiced by Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald) who, in a desire to stay free from an unwanted betrothal, inadvertently casts a spell that she must find a way to break before the cursed changes take hold permanently.
The odyssey to find that way leads to an exciting and charming series of scenes, many of which boast new advancements in animated special effects. As an expert in animation art, it is impossible for me to watch the film without marveling at what I know to be major improvements, but even the casual viewer will notice things like the river water or Merida's hair. They are so lifelike they make the ocean in "Finding Nemo" or Sully's fur in "Monsters Inc." seem like the cartoon equivalent to Tetris or Pong.
In order to advance the look of the film, Pixar rewrote its animation system for the first time in 25 years. Among other things, to reproduce the look of the Highland landscapes, they created over 350 new custom brushes in Photoshop.
Some will brand this movie lesser Pixar, below "Up," "Wall-E," and "Ratatouille."
Certainly the overall plot is fishhook thin, which makes the characterization all the more essential to its appreciation and long-term shelf life. You may notice it is a film with a princess but no romantic interaction. The focus is all on the familial relationships. That alone should pique your curiosity, no?
While it isn't quite up to the greatness of Pixar's best, three aspects of the movie make for wonderful repeat viewing. One is the affecting (and heretofore unique) positive representation of mother-daughter love and inspiring relationship growth. The other two are the great characters of Merida, who is an enjoyably complex and unique heroine, and a big brown bear character (the film was originally titled "The Bear and The Bow") that must have been both a hoot and a challenge to animate.
Don't let the fact that "Brave" is a Pixar release that has fairy tale elements deter your viewing. It's a charmer, and the bear in the film is so well animated, you might want to see it more than once to catch all the nuances in the character. With any luck, this will have the same success and staying power as another famous Disney redhead.
Also, look for the delightfully charming Academy Award-nominated short "La Luna." It will put a warm fuzzy smile on your face before the feature even begins.
About this column: Leslie Combemale, "Cinema Siren", is a movie lover and aficionado in Northern Virginia. Alongside Michael Barry, she owns ArtInsights, an animation and film art gallery in Reston Town Center. She has a background in film and art history. She often is invited to present at conventions such as the San Diego Comic Con, where she has been a panelist for The Art of the Hollywood Movie Poster and the Harry Potter Fandom discussion. Visit her gallery website at www.artinsights.com and see more of her reviews and interviews onwww.artinsightsmagazine.com.