DVD Review: Brave

FMV Magazine welcomes Matt Walker who reviews Brave starring Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson.

Currently available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Pixar’s newest release Brave, stomps on old ground as it rekindles the Disney-Princess image, but this is no Sleeping Beauty.

For a long while Pixar could do no wrong. It seemed as though the super-creative, super-talented, super-original team based at the studios in Emeryville, California had the Midas touch. Churning out the likes of the Toy Story Trilogy, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles and Ratatouille certainly gives credence to such an argument, but (there’s always a “but”) Pixar’s efforts of late have been somewhat lacklustre – (I’m not saying bad, I’m just saying they’ve been missing Pixar’s magic touch.)
Take Up, for example; visually stunning, yes, but it lacked the re-watchability (if that’s even a word) of the aforementioned films. Cars 2 is also another example of poor decision making by the team at Pixar. Why even make Cars 2? The first film ended happily ever after, but they decided its success required another outing, and in so doing they created an unnecessary and unoriginal film. Which is why, when entering to see Brave, it was with more than a small amount of trepidation…

Brave is the Highland fairy-tale story of Princess Merida voiced by Kelly MacDonald, (Trainspotting) who is determined to make her own path in life. These unladylike thoughts, however, are not shared by her mother, Lady Elinor (Emma Thompson, Love Actually), believing instead that her daughter should settle down with a rival clan’s suitor to maintain the status quo. Exasperated by her mother’s attitude, Merida heads off into the forest where she chances upon a witch who, after much persuasion, decides to cast a spell that will change the young princesses’ mother. The spell is not all that it seems though, and Merida must find a way to undo the curse before it’s too late.

Pixar, it seems, are back on track. Although it’s old hat for Disney, this film is new and original ground for Pixar. The animation and visual effects are stunning – the highlands, with lochs and all, creating the perfect backdrop – mixing a realistic touch with cartoon style are compounded with great atmospherics that harken back to Wall-E. The characters have depth and substance, and you really feel Pixar have placed emphasis on development here. Background characters like the clansmen, led by King Fergus (Billy Connolly) have more than just a passing resemblance to brutish, clumsy- but-fun tribe of Gauls from the Asterix books, and coupled with Princess Merida’s younger triplet brothers, add a light-hearted and welcome perspective to an otherwise dark(-ish) story.

However, there are negatives – it’s not like we haven’t heard the independent heroine story told before, Mulan rings some bells on that one. Although visually stunning, characters often seem a little too caricatured or not enough in the case of Merida, whose face is a bit too plain and emotionless at times, instead developers have put a little too much focus on hair detail (though in all fairness the hair graphics are amazing). At about the half-way point you kind of know it’ll all end up ok.

The positives far outweigh the negatives in this film; it has re-energised Pixar’s reputation for great storytelling and excellent animation, and although it’s a feature aimed at a younger audience, it still has the ability to draw in the older generation weaned on the Pixar tales of yore.
The kid in you will want to see this one.

FMV Rating: ****

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