Pixar’s unblemished record may have taken a hit last year with the surprisingly subpar Cars 2, but Brave goes a long way towards reminding
us of why they are the only studio whose films inspire hype regardless of genre, cast or crew.

Brave might not be Ratatouille, Up or Toy Story, but it doesn’t have to be.  Even a second tier film from the studio is better than just about
everyone else’s best effort.  And Brave is a heartfelt, funny and absolutely gorgeous film.

On the surface, Brave may appear to be a stock fantasy tale with its bow-and-arrow touting heroine, magical potions and ghostly spirit
guides.

Transcending genre expectations, however, it features very little in the way of typical fantasy action, instead focusing on the relationship
between the adventurous Princess Merida and her prim and proper Queen mother.

Merida is a rebellious youth that wants only to fire her bow and explore the wild forests and countryside, while her mother works tirelessly
to mold her into the noblewoman she herself aspires to be.

The heart of Brave is in their interactions and they’re handled with intelligence and depth that will resonate with kids and adults alike.  It
rings true and although there may not be too many genuine surprises along the way, the emotional payoff is great.

We can even look past the magical plot convenience when Merida comes upon a witch’s cottage in the woods.  Despite this turn, Brave
never gives in to the clichéd “Be careful what you wish for” fable it could have been.  Instead showing that we need to be ourselves
without forgetting where we came from.  It’s too intelligent to portray either side as right or wrong.

In the end, it’s not satisfying because a mythical beast is slain or because the kingdom has been saved.  It’s satisfying because a parent and
child find a way to bond and love each other for who they are, even if they are wildly different.

Brave may not have the splitting humor of Toy Story, the crippling drama of Up or masterful writing of Ratatouille, but it has enough of all
those things to be a very good film by any standard.

It also has a great cast of voice actors.

Merida is voiced by Kelly Macdonald, who gives a really fantastic performance.

Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly are also excellent as her parents.

I really enjoyed the Merida character as a whole.  She could have easily come off as a bratty, rebellious kid, but the smartly–written dialog
along with Macdonald’s genuine delivery makes us really empathize with her struggles to throw off the shackles of her regal duties.

She receives a rousing introduction as she flies across the countryside on horseback firing arrows and scaling cliffs.

Merida is also a technical marvel, with hair rendered so realistically it’s almost a distraction.

Brave is a great-looking movie all around.  The animation and art direction is superb; perfectly walking the line between realism and fantasy.

As to be expected from a Pixar production, the sound mixing and editing is among the best in the business.

Patrick Doyle’s score is also extremely effective.

Doyle wonderfully integrates the evocative Scottish flavor into just about every inch of this score and it works wonders.  There is some
beautiful thematic work that really makes the emotions all the more powerful as the film reaches its climax.

Brave is a wonderful film.  It’s filled with humor and emotional depth and is a technical marvel on top of it.

Its plot may be fairly standard in concept, but the execution is excellent.  Brave is a consistently entertaining and emotionally satisfying
family drama under the guise of your typical fantasy fare, and it’s another fantastic entry in the historic resume of Pixar.

* * * ½
(out of four)
BRAVE
Directed by: Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman

Written by: Mark Andrews & Steve Purcell and Brenda
Chapman & Irene Mecchi

Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma
Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane

Music by: Patrick Doyle

Released: June 22, 2012; 93 Minutes