Since first hearing about a fiery redheaded girl who could shoot a bow and arrow, I knew I would love this movie – Brave. Last year, we were treated to a preview at the D23 Expo in Anaheim and I’ve been waiting impatiently ever since to see the full film. The anticipation has been being built up through the various trailers, promotions in and out of the parks, merchandise, and of course, the Princess Merida character meet and greets opening on both coasts. With all of this hype, I did worry that perhaps I wouldn’t love it as much as I hoped. Those fears were soon put at ease with just the opening sequence.
The color palette, the sweeping landscapes, and the music all set the stage for an epic tale. From the start, we are shown the importance of family and the strength of Merida’s family bond. That same bond later becomes conflict as Merida’s mother, Queen Elinor grooms her for her role as future queen and choosing a prince to marry. Merida, who grew up idolizing her father’s bravery and strength in battle, has other ideas about her future and her fate. As the previews tell us, Merida seeks to change her fate and be more than just a betrothed princess. The will-o-the-wisps come in to play and lead Merida to the ultimate choice. I won’t give anything away, but the results of her choice take us on an action-packed adventure.
In addition to the breathtaking animation, we are treated to a rarity in a Disney film, a positive, yet still realistic mother-daughter relationship. Merida tries so hard to be her own person, in charge of her own life and make her own choices, but at the end of the day, she is still her mother’s daughter, and needs her. I loved that she still had that vulnerability and as a mother and a daughter myself, it was something I loved seeing on screen. I left the theater truly grateful for this portrayal of motherly love from Disney and Pixar. For so long, we saw evil stepmothers, no mother figure at all, or thin storylines that left us wanting more. We finally got a human, mother-daughter bond with Brave.
I would like to think the storyline, the amount of action, and gorgeous animation allows anyone to relate to Brave and Merida’s story, however my husband was not as big of a fan as I was. He did think it was beautiful, though. He actually didn’t like being emotionally manipulated by the storyline in Toy Story 3 either, so there’s that. Me, I’m a sap, and I fully own that. I cry if a kitten meows too sweetly, so of course I’m going to get emotional with the writing Pixar is famous for. That said, I don’t think Brave was too sappy, I don’t think it was manipulative with its plot, I think it was just perfect (is perfect too strong an accolade?).
Most importantly, as a mother of a tween daughter, Merida represents a strong, positive role model. She is stubborn and wants to get her way, but not in a whiny, annoying fashion, and she learns and grows from the challenges she faces. And perhaps best of all – she doesn’t settle for what’s expected of her lot in life. As parents, isn’t that what we all want for our children? To give them the comforts and tools they need to both be happy and make the best decisions they can? Disney and Pixar nailed that important lesson and I’m thrilled future generations now have Merida as a role model.
At the same time, Merida is a nontraditional princess, apart from her sapphire blue eyes. She has wild, unruly red hair, freckles, she hates wearing tight prissy dresses, and worrying about manners. In a time when little girls aspire to dress up in heels with full make-up and attempt perfection, Merida stands proudly for all the little girls that may look or act a little different, but are no less beautiful, inside and out. Again, I am grateful for these choices that Disney supported.
And for those with absolutely no interest in girls or princesses, there is quite a bit of action, dark and scary scenes and even violence. Brave was given a PG rating for a reason, so parents with small children be warned. I was concerned there would be too much emphasis on slap-stick humor with the clans vying for Merida’s hand and the trouble-making little triplet brothers, but it was just the right balance, especially with so many powerful action scenes mixed in.
Another wonderful part of its masterpiece was the lovely score and soundtrack. I will definitely be buying the Brave original soundtrack when it’s released on June 19. So beautiful. I whole-heartedly recommend Brave and think it is a powerful addition to the Disney-Pixar family of films. Brave opens June 22 in theaters everywhere. I cannot wait to see Brave again and know it will be my favorite for quite some time.
Disclaimer: I was provided free passes to see a screening of Brave with my family but as with all reviews, my opinions were my own and not affected.