‘Brave’ features a Pixar princess with a Disney influence

‘Brave’ features Pixar’s first female protagonist.

Is archery is the new girl power skill? First, it was Katniss from The Hunger Games who was a whiz with the bow and arrow. Now, it is Brave’s Princess Merida who just happens to be an expert archer. And, much to her mother’s chagrin, she always forgets to keep her weapon off the dinner table.

Merida, Pixar’s first princess, is a fiery redhead with wild curly locks. She doesn’t want to be pushed into marrying just because tradition says she should.

Set in Scotland, Brave is a different sort of Disney movie because it is about the relationship between a strong-willed, stick-to-tradition mother and a free-spirited, break-from-tradition daughter.

I actually found Brave to be an odd hybrid of a Pixar movie with a heavy Disney influence. There were a couple of songs, but none that stood out. There was no Prince Charming, but a typical Disney evil witch who mysteriously appears just in time to cast a spell, never to be seen or heard from again.

Brave will not be remembered as one of Pixar’s best, but still fairly good. It’s nowhere near as memorable as Up, Wall-E or the Toy Story movies, but it certainly is a step up from last year’s rather dreadful Cars 2.

As the daughter of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), Merida must choose from three potential suitors to marry, all of whom are unattractive in both looks and personality. Since Merida is vehemently opposed to making such a decision, she runs off after a nasty argument with her unwavering mother.

Merida turns to an eccentric witch in the woods, who conjures up a kooky spell that promises to solve all of Merida’s problems with mom. Unfortunately, that spell turns Merida’s mother into a giant furry bear and she will remain that way forever, unless Merida can figure out within two days how to break the spell.

The “fix” was a little too simplistic for me, but it was nice that story really stuck to the mother/daughter conflict, and there was no Prince Charming to swoop in and save the day at the end.

Is Merida a typical bratty teenager or a progressive princess? She’s both. Merida wants to do whatever she wants, and to heck with tradition and what her parents say. But, obviously she does have a point about not wanting to be forced into marriage with a man she doesn’t love.

Casting actual Scots such as Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolly and Craig Ferguson for the voices gave the movie more of an authentic vibe. Brit Emma Thompson sounded sufficiently Scottish enough for me, as well.

Unlike the recent visual spectacle that was Madagascar 3, the 3-D for Brave is not worth the price of admission. You’d have nearly the exact same experience in 2-D, I’d imagine. Some parts were definitely a bit dramatic and intense, and may frighten younger viewers. The initial bear scenes were somewhat funny, especially with the prim and proper Queen trying to figure out how to act like a wild bear. While Merida is an admirable heroine, Brave lacks some of the charm and wit of some previous Pixar offerings.

Movie Grade: B