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Brave - Film Review

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by Matt Elliot Taylor (subscribe)
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon
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Theatrical Release Poster (courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios)

Pixar's latest, dedicated to the late Steve Jobs has been - and still is - a popular outing to the movies these school holidays. And why not? Thankfully for our friends at Pixar, there aren't many answers to that question.

Set in medieval-era Scotland (complete with accents), Brave focuses on the would-be princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) and her carefree lifestyle outside the castle walls. The lush land in which she explores is ruled by her parents King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson); both of which have very different approaches to parenthood. Fergus embraces his daughter's blithe attitude to life whereas Elinor's only intentions are to turn Merida into the Queen that will carry on tradition. When her Mother calls in suitors from neighbouring lands for betrothal Merida flees in anger.

The three Kings of neighbouring lands (image courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios)

Where Brave differentiates from previous Pixar films like Monsters Inc. [2001], Cars [2006], or the Toy Story series is its historical setting. As swift as a wave of the young lass' sword, the story becomes fantastical when Merida inadvertently changes her Mother into a bear - so naturally she has to break the spell to turn her back.

Pixar's film resume is one that when glanced upon is instantly above reproach. Emphatically funny and charming, the movies produced by this studio never seem to disappoint, and even if they do it's marginal at most. Brave is no exception to this trend. It is exciting and funny - a few select moments are hilarious - and of course the unique Pixar trait: it works as a story for kids on the surface but the reluctant parents who are apparently 'dragged' to the movies will embrace and indulge in it just as much.

Merida defies her Mother by part-taking in the Archery tournament (image courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios).

Purely on an entertainment level, the punches it packs in the first act are fast and furious - I was excited by what was happening and what might happen. But when what might happen - or more accurately, what I was hoping to happen - didn't, then it became disheartening as it introduced the witch character. This is stuff we've seen a million times before and I thought to myself "this isn't what Pixar do. Witches and spells - what's going on? Disney do that." But now that I think of it, Disney bought Pixar in 2006. Hmmmm… Nonetheless, Brave manages to retain its naïve-yet-intuitive charm by how it uses this centuries-old fantastical tale that Disney seemed so fit to employ in movies like Pinnochio [1940] and Sleeping Beauty [1959] in the final act and in the moral message of the story. It blatantly delivers this - as most Pixar films do - in the last few lines of dialogue. You know? Just before the glorious scenery shot as it cuts to the end credits accompanied by an epic, uplifting score.

It may seem like I'm bullying Pixar a little, but I assure you that I'm not. I'm merely demonstrating that if it's a 'Pixar' film you're expecting from Brave, then a 'Pixar' film you'll get. Brave presents and embraces all the classic emotive traits of a Pixar film - action, suspense, comedy, adventure and sly wit for the adults. As a piece of engaging entertainment it's not on the same level as Monsters Inc. [2001] or the Toy Story series (particularly on the comedy level), but is thoroughly enjoyable. It does have some surprisingly intense sequences for a Pixar film and as such warrants a PG rating.

Brave deserves four stars … almost.
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Why? Pixar returns in strong force for 2012.
When: June 21st (Aus)
Where: Your local cinema
Cost: Check your local cinema for details
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