‘Brave’ Review

Published 2 years ago by

Brave Movie Princess Merida Brave Review

Easily one of the most trusted names in animated filmmaking, Pixar is back with another original story for children and adults, alike. Following behind a pair of franchise sequels (Toy Story 3 and Cars 2), with Brave the studio is set to tackle its very first full-length princess fairy tale story – a staple of Disney’s hand-drawn animated classics. This round, Pixar alum and John Carter co-writer Mark Andrews is stepping into the director’s chair, after the film’s creator, Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt), left the project following a series of creative differences.

After the mixed response to Cars 2, which received Pixar’s harshest critical lashing to date, has the film studio managed to produce an animated experience that successfully balances a new story, enjoyable characters and groundbreaking visuals for movie lovers of all ages – not just the juice box crowd? Following in the footsteps of films like Up and Wall-E, not to mention franchise threequel Toy Story 3, does Brave once again raise the bar for animated films?

Fortunately, Brave is a return to form for the studio and delivers plenty of fun for moviegoers from all walks of life. However, for anyone who was especially moved by the studio’s more “mature” films – namely the aforementioned Up and Wall-E - Brave could come across as somewhat less ambitious (and subsequently a little underwhelming) – as the core storyline relies on a lot of familiar fairy tale tropes. This isn’t to say that the film fails to deliver a competent narrative or charming characters – but, for some, the studio may not have provided as many memorable or thought-provoking story beats this round. But even though Brave may not soar quite as high as some of Pixar’s most celebrated efforts, the movie still offers plenty to enjoy – not to mention, a solid mix of traditional princess power coupled with the studio’s trademark charm and humor.

Brave Movie Bear Wisps Brave Review

Princess Merida and the Bear in 'Brave'

Brave (originally titled The Bear and the Bow) follows reckless tomboy Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) whose mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), has been diligently preparing her for a life of royal responsibilities. Unlike more traditional Princesses, Merida takes after her warrior father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), and would much rather be riding through the forest on horseback firing arrows, or climbing mountains, than dressing for a royal function or practicing proper etiquette. Her rebellious attitude comes to a head when the Queen invites three leaders in the kingdom to present their sons as suitors for Merida, and the Princess makes a deal with a local witch who promises to help change the girl’s fate. Unfortunately, the witch’s spell results in unexpected consequences, forcing Merida to rethink her obligation as Princess – for the sake of her family as well as the betterment of the kingdom.

As mentioned, while the Brave storyline is definitely entertaining, it’s not nearly as innovative as some of Pixar’s other works – relying heavily on familiar “be yourself” and “put aside selfish behavior” plot threads. Many of the story beats and dramatic setups will be familiar to most adult moviegoers – making it easy to predict events before they are revealed. Much like its Pixar predecessors, fans will no doubt defend the movie by reminding naysayers that, above all else, Brave is a kids movie – and without question, as a kids movie, the film succeeds. However, adults looking for a contemplative and “mature” animated offering may find Brave to be a bit on-the-nose and too predictable to provide anything more than moment to moment entertainment. As a result, there are plenty of enjoyable comedy and action beats that will appeal to viewers of all ages – there just isn’t a lot to unpack after the lights go up.

Those who can relate to Mother/daughter relationships will be able to draw a bit more value out of the onscreen character drama – since the conflict between Merida and Queen Elinor  is the central motor of the story. This isn’t to say that Brave will only appeal to women, but it doesn’t take too long to see that nearly all of the male characters are designed to provide little more than comedy relief. Hollywood is overstuffed with male heroes, so it’s refreshing to see Merida (and Queen Elinor) take center stage in the film; although, with so many rash and downright knuckleheaded men running around in the kingdom, some male audience members might have a hard time connecting to the film’s emotional touchstones (even though King Fergus and the royal triplets are among the most entertaining players in the film).

Brave Movie Family Brave Review

Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, and Emma Thompson in 'Brave'

That said, even with a number of predictable story beats and a lot of one-note male characters, Brave provides plenty of eye candy for animated film fans. The hair effects alone are incredible – not to mention the gorgeous rolling hills of the Scottish countryside. Additionally, the movie offers a solid story that, in spite of a heavy reliance on familiar archetypes, manages to put a unique stamp on the fairytale genre. Merida isn’t exceptionally different from prior Disney Princesses (who yearn to be free of their responsibilities and live a “normal” life) but the similarities won’t prevent audiences from identifying with the character or her personal journey.

Like most animated films, Brave is screening in 3D and, like most animated films, the movie looks sharp in the premium format – rarely relying on “jump out of the screen” gags. Consequently, either version of the film is recommendable – since the 3D effect is neither distracting nor essential to enjoying the onscreen action.

While it doesn’t break a lot of new ground, Brave is a beautiful and competent entry in Disney’s robust fairytale film pedigree – one that is sure to dazzle younger viewers. Princess Merida will, without question, have no trouble competing alongside iconic Mouse House heroines like Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine, and Ariel, as one of Disney’s best animated leading ladies. Nonetheless, even though Brave is solid from beginning to end, the experience might be a little underwhelming for older viewers who expect Pixar to continue pushing the boundaries of animated film storytelling with another “mature” offering. Ultimately, it’s an easy film to recommend, but some ardent cinephiles might want to temper their lofty expectations.

If you’re still on the fence about Brave, check out the trailer below:

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Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Brave is Rated PG for some scary action and rude humor. Now playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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41 Comments

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  1. It’s been a long time since I loved a Pixar film. Been quite a while since I really liked one.

    My sister will love this though.

    • I loved “Tangled”. Thought it was great!

      • I think that might be my little sisters favourite film. I also enjoyed it.

        • Tangled isn’t a Pixar film; Disney, yes but not Pixar.

          • Hmmmm … didn’t realize that.

            • Not hard at all to make that mistake. ‘Tangled’ is partial CGI, and the two companies have worked together on quite a few movies. I really liked that one too.

          • Yes I knew that.

            • Anyone that thought Tangled was a pixar film has no business posting here. Wow.

              • Seriously… Haha but anyone I thought Brave was definitely one of the best Pixar movies I’ve seen, right behind Toy Story 3, Up and Wall E.

  2. Bring on Finding Dory,Bugs life 2,and Incredibles 2.

    • Incredibles 2. Absoloutely

    • Bugs Life 2? Nah
      Finding Dory? maybe… I dunno.
      but Incredibles 2? YEEEEESSS!!!!

      • Finding Dory.
        The plot: Dory looses her mind and goes crazy. She forgets EVERYTHING and Nemo, who has grown up, has to make her remember, while tending to his sick father.
        THEN, SHARKS ARRIVE!
        Action sequence.
        Adventure begins (TBD)

        Just kidding… But wouldn’t that be weird? Dory finding herself. hee hee.

  3. I am looking forward to taking my little girl to see this.

  4. I’m looking forward to seeing the live-action version of Merida at Disney World. They need more redheads.

  5. Even a bad Pixar movie is a lot better than most othe animated films out there, I loved Cars 2 and thought it was only second to Tintin lasyt year (and leagues beyltter than Rango)

  6. I found nothing enjoyable about Cars 2 and felt guilty for making my kids sit in the theater to watch it.

  7. Seems like a solid animated movie.

    I’m looking forward to taking the kid inside me to see it! :P

  8. i find cars to be the worst of the pixar movies and much worse than most of the dreamworks movies i like. As of now i enjoy dreamworks just as much as pixar with how to train your dragon, megamind and kung fu panda. Im looking forward to wreck it raulph this year from disney. Also the slew of animated movies that are scheduled for next year. (monsters university, turbo ect)

  9. Nice review – I’ll definitely be seeing this one with my ‘lil sister when it’s released in SA.

  10. is it really necessary to devote 2 paragraphs to unnecessary stuff then 1-2 paragraphs on story recap ?

    this has been happening alot with you guys recently, you spend alot of time recapping the story and openings that to be honest dont really do much (besides waste reading time).

    i’m on the fence about this one, visually is looks very nice and the narrative whilst somewhat cliché is interesting enough to deem watching, it’s the accent of the actors that annoys me. i mean i can understand what they’re saying most the time but their tone is what turns me off :(

  11. Disappointed this is the second review I have read where it has been stated this isn’t another awesome more mature animated film like Up or Wall-E which I both loved. Oh well I’m looking forward to Monsters University

  12. I disagree a little with what was said in the review. My review of the moviehttp://www.mi7.co/2012/06/review-of-brave.html

  13. Just got back from the movie and my son enjoyed it as did I. Good stuff

  14. I still want to see it. Now I’ll probably end up seeing spiderman first etc, but I will get back to this eventually.

  15. Saw this with my girls. I tend to agree with the review. Not the typical stellar Pixar film, but still fun to watch, and the mother-daughter relationship is one of the more fun ones I’ve seen in a film in a long while. The visuals are top-notch, mind-blowing, the fishing scene at the river was incredible, lovely!

    But, a good film to see with the family.

  16. I guess I missed something. All the comments, even the critics seem to really like this film. I loved all the other pixar films, every one. This one looks like a pixar film, but felt like a Disney made for Saturday morning TV. Very shallow, extremely predictable, no depth to the characters, no character development beyond the three main characters, and that was shallow. No real feeling brought out of the audience. It was like reading a bedtime story to a 5 year old. One thing we did not get at all was the 6 year old boy potty humor. (Someone has an obsession with bare butts) I took my 5 daughters, ages 9 to 17 yesterday. We have been looking forward to this for a long time. My 13 year old thinks she could rewrite it to correct the problems with the story, even. Did we enjoy it? Sure. The animation was amazing. The scottish culture thrilling. The potential for this film was right there. What went wrong? The Director?

    • Just lol

      To quote the film in response, “ohhhh, the wee lamb.”

    • Miss something? Oh, I think you did, Trebek. I think you did indeed. As Mama Odie says, you gotta dig a little deeper.

  17. its is awesome great..:)

  18. I haven’t watched Brave yet; I highly doubt it will come close to the soaring beauty that was ‘How to train your dragon’! Almost nothing close comes to that movie – the stirring music by Powell, the themes of failure, the touching softness between human and other-than-human…beautiful.

  19. I did not like Brave at all, Maybe its because i’m English but it felt very stereotyped, I went to the press screener in Austin and I had not had chance to review prior to taking my son, Who has some sort of random phobia about bears, namely Polar Bears, so when I realized the Bears (Da Bears) would be the main antagonist, I knew what was going to come next by the end of the movie and I was forced to shield his eyes on a few occasions. He seems no worse for the wear however it made me question what constitutes a PG rating as the bears were pretty scary. (The style reminded me of Watership Down.) Anywho, I own Cars and Wall-E, Up started with so much promise only to plummet at the beginning of the film and you never get out the pit you found yourself in.

    My 2c worth.

  20. Some of the recent animation movies I have liked have NOT been Pixar productions, How to Train your Dragon, Tangled, Despicable Me, Megamind….
    I think Dreamworks has really stepped up while Pixar is sliding.
    Ice Age remains my favorite animation though!

  21. Here is a hint Pixar. When you drop your director in mid film, you never end up with a perfect film. However, I did like the film.

  22. after two crapfests in a row, pixar really needs to get its act together for their next films.

    too bad monster’s university looks like a POS. its an unnecessary prequel too, monster’s inc was a great self contained story. looks like the success of toy story 3 has made pixar execs greedy and lazy.

  23. Very disappointed!!!

  24. I thought Brave was a fantastic experience filled with Courage, heart, the importance of family and humor. It may not have been 10 out of 10, but it was very visually entertaining and Merida is a character hard not to admire. Scotland in animation was beautiful. The movie lacked some depth, but over all very entertaining. Merida’s courage and taste for adventure is refreshing, more kids and people in general should have heroes like her! I may be an easy critic.. I love most movies with courage as a big part of the plot.

  25. I was VERY disappointed in this film. For the record, it isn’t just men left a bit disconnected from the core emotional storyline. As a rebellious daughter to an occasionally overbearing mother, I thought this one would really speak to me. It did not. The relationship is so trite, broad & unspecific, it doesn’t speak to mothers & daughters anymore than it speaks to men. Not to mention, the plot twist with the bear was such a bizarre & unnecessary left turn, it left me with a furrowed brow rather than an emotional connection. In fact, I kept thinking about the narrative CHOICES rather than actually getting lost in the story itself. It is an okay film, but it is neither up to par with Pixar’s earlier outings, nor even the best of the existing Disney canon (like Mulan, Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast…)

    • I thought this a fantastic film. Beautiful, enthralling, moving, funny, and true to Scottish culture and folklore in every way, from bears to myths to bare bottoms (google Billy Connolly’s bike joke). The Pixar team definitely did their research. Puzzled why some would not understand the bear reference or enjoy the Scottish accents and humour – these are intrinsic to the theme. My husband, four daughters and I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film, as we have Wall-E, Despicable Me, Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Wallace and Gromit)…the list goes on and on. All brilliant animated films in their own right, some perhaps with ‘deeper’ messages than others, but all captivating and tributes to the talented people who brought them to life. It’s entertainment after all, best to approach with an open mind and let yourself be wooed and transported.

  26. One of pixars best movies! A must see! Everyone loves this movie in my home town.

  27. I thought this a fantastic film. Beautiful, enthralling, moving, funny, and true to Scottish culture and folklore in every way, from bears to myths to bare bottoms (google Billy Connolly’s bike joke). The Pixar team definitely did their research. Puzzled why some would not understand the bear reference or enjoy the Scottish accents and humour – these are intrinsic to the theme. My husband, four daughters and I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film, as we have Wall-E, Despicable Me, Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Wallace and Gromit)…the list goes on and on. All brilliant animated films in their own right, some perhaps with ‘deeper’ messages than others, but all captivating and tributes to the talented people who brought them to life. It’s entertainment after all, best to approach with an open mind and let yourself be wooed and transported.

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