The new Disney/Pixar animated feature Brave looks to be a rousing adventure with a terrific heroine at its center, then something odd occurs from which the film never recovers and it has everything to do with the story.
Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is the fiery and independent young daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. The wish of the parents is for their daughter to follow tradition and allow them to arrange for her future marriage. As is the custom of the land, three Scottish clans arrive ready to play the games ordered by the king and queen. The winner will automatically claim Merida’s hand in marriage, but Merida, forever the individual thinker, has other ideas and takes an action that will change the course of events for all the clans of the land forever.
Make no mistake, Brave is a marvel to watch – the technology of computer animation is now breathtaking, and visually Brave is easily the best of its kind, so far – but after a terrific setup co-writer and co-directors Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews have changed the course of events in the second act so dramatically that not only does the film head into an unexpected direction, it also feels wrong.
To explain what happens may be considered a plot spoiler, particularly as none of these scenes ever appear in any of the trailers, so allow me to say that what happens involves a witch, magic spells and a large bear that needs protecting for the rest of the film. Ordinarily, a Disney second act with the story elements of an enchanted forest, a witch and a magic spell would appear perfectly fine, but here where act one promises one thing then delivers something else that’s not quite as interesting is a serious misdirection.
The voice work is excellent with known names that work well. Comedian Billy Connolly’s easily recognizable voice is a both a commanding and fun presence as the king, while Emma Thompson effectively affects a Scottish brogue as the queen. There’s also Craig Ferguson, who these days has fast become the go-to voice for Scottish characters in animation, as Lord Macintosh.
The central character,Merida, is a wonderful creation. With her flaming Rebekah Brooks styled red hair, the boisterous and determined young character is a worthy addition to the Disney lineup of princesses. It’s just a shame she’s left to act out a story that can’t live up to the promise of a great beginning.
MPAARating: PG Length: 93 minutes Overall rating: 6 (out of 10)