A Brilliantly Brave Disney Princess

I’ve been looking forward to Brave for months.  I still haven’t seen Cars 2, Pixar’s last offering, but I went to see Brave this past weekend.  It was wonderful.  I already bought the soundtrack, and will probably get the DVD when it comes out.  I loved the movie on just about every level–the characters, the animation, the plot, the music.  It was like the best of Disney met the best of Pixar and it came out amazing.

Brave is set in Medieval Scotland, and focuses on Merida, the daughter of a clan chieftain.  Her mother Elinor, the clear power beside the throne, wants to teach her to be a proper lady and assume the responsibilities of a leader.  Merida dreams of running free among the hills.  Their dispute comes to a head when three other clans arrive with some very unattractive princes, here to compete for Merida’s hand.  Merida gets a spell from a witch to change her fate, and of course, everything goes horribly awry.

I love Merida.  She’s possibly the strongest Disney princess I can think of.  Some of the themes remind me of Pocahontas, with the struggle between responsibility and freedom, but Merida feels more vivid and more sure of herself.  She reminds me more of Princess Cimorene from Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest books, not quite a proper princess and more interested in other things than being one.

It’s also nice to see a Disney princess with both parents.  Merida’s father is fun-loving and indulgent, and he and Merida have a good rapport.  The relationship with her mother is more complicated, with some good scenes near the beginning setting up both their bond and their conflict.  I could see both their points of view, and felt sympathetic towards both of them.  I’ve seen Elinor described as the villain in other reviews, but I just didn’t see that.  It was a conflict between two strong women who both have a point.  Elinor wants to give her daughter the best possible life, and is keenly aware of their responsibilities towards their people; Merida wants to be herself, to have choices and freedom.

Merida also has three hilarious little brothers, who cause endless mischief, especially racing about the castle.  There are some fun Merida-as-big-sister moments too.

There’s a lot that’s very funny in Brave.  All the characters have their moments, and the humor ranges from clever to just silly, but is very well done.

Stepping back from the characters and the plot, the soundtrack and the animation are both brilliant.  Other than one funny song Merida’s father sings about slaughtering a bear, there aren’t any musical numbers.  The songs are in the background, but even though I don’t usually notice background music, this soundtrack caught my attention.  There’s a beautiful, beautiful song, “Touch the Sky,” that plays while Merida is riding through the hills.  There are also frequent melodies with a Scottish-flavor that add to the feel and tone of the movie.

And the animation…I seem to have saved for last what will probably be noticable first.  The landscapes are gorgeous, soaring hills and forest glens.  The detail is exquisite, and even though I saw this in 2D, it frequently felt 3D.  Some of the movements are a little whooshy and hard to focus on at the beginning, but the movie seemed to adjust as it went and I didn’t notice that so much later on.  The animation of the characters is excellent as well, with subtle facial expressions and mannerisms.  And I want pretty much all of Merida’s and Elinor’s clothes–and Merida’s hair.

How gorgeous is this?

Brave has the princess-focus of a Disney movie, with the innovation and edge of a Pixar movie.  It’s not at all a princess-meets-her-prince story, focusing instead on Merida’s relationship with her mother, and her own growth into her responsibilities.  And it’s beautifully drawn and scored, and it’s very funny, and…well, just go see it.  That’s all, really.  You’ll have a wonderful time. 🙂

Movie site: www.disney.go.com

8 thoughts on “A Brilliantly Brave Disney Princess

  1. Great review of a wonderful movie. It was a delight, everything I expected (hoped) and frankly a bit more, particularly in areas you pointed out, like Merida having two parents and both of them actually being depicted as decent characters. Her mother was of course not the “villain” of the piece, or at least only in the sense that every teenager hits points in those years where they feel like their parents are the bad guys. I felt the story treated each character very fairly, not making Merida too rebellious or stubborn to be likeable, not making the parents too stiff-necked and set in their ways. It really was a wonderful story that has a lot of relevance for any family, something you don’t always see even in ‘family’ films.

    I’ll definitely be getting it on blu ray when it comes out, can’t wait to see it again.

    1. I like your point about Elinor only being a villain from a teenage daughter’s point of view–I think that’s exactly the way it was portrayed, and it was very well-done. Though I do wonder if I had seen it as a kid if I’d have less sympathy for the adult’s point of view…I unfortunatley don’t have any kids I can ask!

      1. Probably not, at least not overtly. I do think the message at the end might sink in a bit though and parents certainly could use it as a good teaching opportunity for their kids. I don’t have any young children either, so I pretty much only see things from the adult point of view, despite being told often that I’m just a big kid. 🙂

  2. You’ve sold me on it. I’m all for movies that give young girls heroines who are positive role models and to whom they can actually relate. Merida sounds like just that kind of character. And I’m a sucker for beautiful scenery – I loved “Under the Tuscan Sun” more for the background visuals than the story line! 🙂

  3. Looking forward to seeing this, though I’ll probably go during the long weekend I’m taking off for July 4.

    I haven’t seen Cars 2, either, but haven’t heard any good things about it.

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