Watching Brave on a mobile phone as a passenger in a moving car was probably not the best way to watch Disney-Pixar’s latest fairy tale, but it was the only chance I’d get to see it. Even so, it was subject to several interruptions as my 13 month-old tried to pull the phone out of my hand.
The other film I’d rented through Google Play was the British animation, Arthur Christmas, and the difference in quality was remarkable: this is how the professionals do it.
The first, biggest, most obvious thing about Brave is that it is astonishingly beautiful. The lush colours, the realistic water animations, the sheer spectacle of the Scottish countryside – which is as much Brave‘s headline star as New Zealand toplined Lord of the Rings. The obligatory princess, Merida, is breathtaking, too – her hair deserves a movie of its own. Or perhaps this is it.
Brave: a movie about really luxuriant coppery tresses.
You could be snarky at this point, and many have been, and say that Merida’s hair is really all Brave is, since the plot is wafer thin. Many have criticised the lack of a “proper villain”, since this mother-daughter bonding tale strays from the normal Disney formula.
That’s missing the point.
Brave fits, instead, into the fish-out-of-water/body swap tradition: its story is no more slender than Big or Splash, and it is no less endearing. Kelly MacDonald’s performance as Merida is feisty and engaging, and Emma Thompson as her mother is sympathetic even she’s being soooo unfair! Billy Connolly, Julie Walters and Kevin McKidd fill out the rest of the cast, bringing warmth and humour to their parts. It’s rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s smile-worthy and enjoyable stuff.
Pixar completely re-wrote their animation system for the first time in 25 years, and this is as mesmerising to view as the Final Fantasy movie was in its day. Brave is more than a tech demo, though, elevated by its voice cast to be quite moving in places.
You could say that Brave is a story about a clever and resourceful heroine, or about a stroppy and rather hapless teenager, or about familial reconciliation, or about borderline-offensive Scots stereotypes, but mostly it’s just astonishingly beautiful. Sometimes that’s all a film needs.
:edit: This is what I love about the internet. This fabulous essay about Brave by Lili Loofbourow, which I picked up via @kateri_t, makes me want to go back and watch the movie in a totally different light. I didn’t think it was particularly shallow or boring, and even this article agrees that the film is imperfect and flags in places, but it seems I was too awed by the film’s aesthetics to notice its nuances. It’s long, but it’s a great read. I’d already decided to pick up Brave on DVD at some point, but Loofbourow’s piece makes me all the more eager to do so.