The creative folk behind such smash hits as the Toy Story trilogy, Up and WALL-E are back with a glorious bang.
Scotland-set Brave tells the tale of Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a princess unlike any other. Rather than being the a-typical prim and proper daughter of royalty, she’s a boisterous chick who enjoys nothing more than mucking in at the stables and she’s skillful with a bow and arrow.
When her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) informs Merida she must choose a suitor to marry, the independent flame-haired girl defies the long-held custom. In an angry reaction to her mother’s demands, she stubbornly runs off and commits and act of folly that brings chaos to the kingdom.
While Brave isn’t quite as pin-sharp as other Pixar features mentioned, it’s a beautifully realised piece of cinema that ties in folklore, magic, classic Disney fairytales and a gorgeous depiction of a fictional Scotland.
As ever, the voice-work is perfectly in keeping with what we’ve come to expect. Thankfully, there are no US actors providing shoddy Scottish accents and poor pronunciation of the colloquialisms that pepper the dialogue. Macdonald encapsulates Merida wonderfully – giving the feisty red-head a nice mix of cockiness and naivety that will resonate with many parents who will, undoubtedly, enjoy this as much as their kids.
Thompson and Connolly bring charm and laughs to the screen as the Queen and King Fergus. In fact, in another mirroring of what many see as something that happens in real-life, Merida is seen as a daddy’s girl with Fergus continually giving her leeway and excuses for her behaviour whilst Elinor struggles to enforce the long-held understanding that ‘girls don’t do boyish things’.
At it’s heart, Brave is a tale of growing up and accepting responsibility for your actions – something all of us has experienced at least once in our lives, with the main focus on the dynamic between a protective mother and a daughter wanting to make her own decisions.
Among the rest of the voice cast, McKidd doubles up admirably as Lord MacGuffin and his son and aspiring husband-to-be Young MacGuffin while Robbie Coltrane plays Lord Dingwall and Craig Ferguson provides the vocal work of Lord Macintosh. Julie Walters as the witch doesn’t get much screentime, but does well with what she has.
Technically, Brave is a sumptuous mix of stunning scenery and detailed artwork that is unrivaled. The sequence involving Merida at an archery contest is a beautifully shot sight to behold – the bend of the arrow, ruffle of the fletchings and the splintering of wood is just jaw-dropping. It’s this attention to detail that keeps Pixar streets ahead of its rivals.
Despite a notable absence of inspired ‘laugh-out-loud’ moments, Brave still has enough humour throughout to elicit audible chuckles – thanks in the main to the behaviour of Merida’s younger triplet brothers and a scene involving a magical answerphone service revolving around a cauldron and potions.
The original score is a beauty, too, soaring above the luscious green fields of a mythical Scotland and causing many-a-goosebump in the process.
While many may accuse Brave of being less Pixar and more Disney, this doesn’t detract from what is a wonderful creation from directors Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell. Think classic Disney fairytale with a 21st century Pixar aesthetic. What’s not to love?
It’s a welcome return to form from Pixar that, while not as complete as a WALL-E or Up, is magical.
Brave arrives in cinemas in Scotland and Ireland on August 3 and England and Wales on August 13.