(directed by Brenda Chapman & Mark Andrews, 2012)
***+ (out of 5)
> While a gentle pleasure to watch, Pixar’s 13th animated release is not as enchanting as its trailer would suggest. Predictably beautiful to look at, BRAVE is not as good as the best (the clever TOY STORY films, and the remarkable UP), it sure beats the worst (the plastic CARS duds) and has pleasures of its own to savor.
. “Merida” is a heroine we can love with a beautiful fiery red mane of wild hair that is as untamable as the girl beneath. The film is really propelled by a mother-daughter relationship that becomes an epic battle of wills, when the young rebel refuses to submit to the tradition of negotiated marriage. There is fun character development throughout, and as always, the vocal talent continues to be among the most evocative ingredient. Kelly MacDonald, (who figures prominently in Scorsese’s handsome HBO project Boardwalk Empire), is pitch-perfect as young Merida, Billy Connolly is riotous as her big, bear-killing softie of a father, and they share in the company of big talents like Emma Thompson, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane and Julie Waters- professionals all. As the hapless heroine’s tender heart was breaking, I noticed that I was getting emotional in sympathy. Then I realized why: never have tears been so effectively rendered in an animated “cartoon”. Somehow, when coupled with Ms. MacDonald’s vocal performance,the synthesis of the heaviness of the eyes and the quivering of the lip almost made you forget you weren’t watching a real live actress at work. An achievement!
. BRAVE has lots of good stuff going on, with much to admire and enjoy, and yet somehow- it felt less than the sum of its parts. Still, as a Celtophile I’m happy to see stories from this part of the planet, and I like seeing new heroines replace the same old tired heroes, Little girls should love it, and there needs to be many more films made for this family demographic.
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