Brave – 4/5 stars

This was one of the films I was looking forward to in 2012.  After seeing preview footage at Empire’s Big Screen last year, it whetted my appetite for another jewel in Pixar’s crown.  Especially after the lacklustre Cars 2 and the forthcoming news of unnecessary sequels, Pixar had a mission – to prove to critics that they can still rock the world of the animated feature.

Brave is the first outing by Pixar that resembles anything relatively real (in other words, human protagonists rather than talking toys or conscious robots).  Set in the lush green backdrop of Scotland, we see wild spirit Merida (Broadwalk Empire‘s Kelly MacDonald), a princes who wants to live her own life.  After one too many fights with her mother (Emma Thompson), Merida encounters a will-o’-the-whisp (aka. a little blue flame that, according to folklore, guides travellers to safety) and goes down a magic-laced path that ultimately changes her fate.

Now, Pixar is well-known for doing films that are out of the ordinary.  So, this project – with a female protagonist and a female director sharing directorial credits – can be considered as something different in Pixar’s history.  The result, however, is a mother-daughter bonding session with certain fairytale elements á la Disney.  The story is predictable in places and the jokes are fairly thin on the imaginative side, but this film is essentially about Girl Power – Merida is a gutsy archer, refusing to the idea of being tied down to a man because the law says so and her mum, Queen Elinor, taking charge of her castle and obviously being the one who wears the trousers in her relationship.  In comparison, the male characters, from Billy Connolly’s King Fergus to Robbie Coltrane’s Lord Dingwall, are seen as stereotypical and, in most cases, laughable.

However, what the film lacks in originality, it makes up for in technical and animated excellence.  Pixar are a bunch of creative geniuses – expertly capturing the wildness of the Scottish highlands and that of Merida herself (Note to Pixar: that hair?! Dude! *applauds*), allowing us to fully lose themselves in the heart and beauty of the tale.  I think Brave is Pixar’s most ambitious attempt in capturing human expressions through computer animation and it passes with flying colours.

Lacking in story and inventiveness but stunning and technically brilliant, Brave will win new fans but may not have done enough to convince current Pixar fans that they still got it.

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