US Release Date: 22 June 2012
Director: Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Robbie Coltraine, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Julie Walters
Pixar’s latest film has a lot of pressure to be amazing. Despite 26 years as a company and with 12 previous mainstream films, this 13th feature is their first fairytale, first female director and first female lead. With so many critical eyes looking for different things from this film, can it hold up? It’s a question that’s been plaguing me since the film entered my peripheral vision and, on Saturday, it was answered.
In the simplest terms, Brave is a film which explores the relationship between a mother and daughter, a dramatic change from the male-heavy backlog in Pixar’s archives. Part of the relationship is constrained by their roles as royalty but generally the pair reflect the trials and tribulations shared by mothers and daughters. In this, I feel Brave succeeded in its mission to speak to the female audience. Merida’s strong presence in the film is clear; the film’s focus, her wild hair, her confidence on the screen, these are expected from the trailers and the film’s promotion but what was interesting was Elinor’s presence. As queen, she can calm a violent brawl by merely walking across the room. She commands respect for her being and later it falls to Merida to try and emulate this impressive control of the room both in the the screen and out. But that doesn’t mean women and girls are their only target, there’s plenty for everyone.
The boys are not left out carrying a 10:2 lead over named characters. Billy Connolly’s performance as the dad, Fergus, is short but great. It’s a cheeky role but a heartfelt one, however, I believe he may have been outshone by the triplets. The brothers often steal the screen with their devilish antics and general adorableness. I’m calling it now: there will be a short à la Jack -Jack Attackabout these boys hijinks.
The other three clan leaders and their sons are integral to the plot and provide some comedic caricatures including Young MacGuffin whose Doric accent is incomprehensible. The inability to understand what the character is saying is played for laughs but mostly all I could think of was the audiences that would feel similarly lost throughout most of the film and some of the greatest laughs.
The highlight of Brave for me is most definitely the Scottish patter. Being Scottish myself, I find a good scottish accent highly appealing if done well and the large cast of scottish voices made me excited from the start. But it was the inclusion of familiar phrases that made the film. I hesitate to give examples in case it ruins the experience. I will say my favourite line is early on during the list of what princesses must and musn’t do. It’s a moment of comedy gold.
The accents are then complemented by the gorgeous music by Patrick Doyle which evokes a feeling of Scotland from the opening pan of countryside. This film has succeeded in visually and aurally stunning me.
As amazing as the performance was, I do have complaints, though they are minor. Firstly, I would advise that anyone who has not already done so to avoid the third trailer and potentially the merchandise which could spoil the twist in the film. I didn’t know the exact details, but I had already figured out the big twist in the film before entering the cinema, something that Pixar and other film companies should reconsider when they release their film trailers and promotional material. The second is the length – I wanted more. Perhaps I’m greedy, and I suppose it was long enough, but something extra at the start or middle to add to either Merida or Elinor’s character would have perhaps added a little more to the film to make it one of the animated greats. As much as it pains me, Brave sits just below this mark.
Brave remains a must-see this summer, with Scotland having to wait until August 3rd while the rest of the UK will see it after August 17th (another issue which I’ll get into another time). I expect the film to be enjoyed by the majority though it is unlikely to wow audiences like some other Pixar’s films, but maybe it will lead to more Scottish films, strong female characters and relationships across the film board.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
A note for those who like the extras things in life: don’t leave the cinema during the credits. There’s an extra scene right at the end which, while not amazing, is a nice wee conclusion to a forgotten loose end.