Visually, the movie is stunning. The Scottish Highlands make a beautiful backdrop for this film, and Merida is animated really well, with her bright frizzy orange hair. The voice work is great. There's also a lot of funny bits. Her triplet brothers really stood out for me as being very entertaining, as is her father. And Merida seemed to be a pretty good portrayal of a 16(?) year old girl. She was independent but also stubborn, and that made her realistic. She's definitely not perfect, so she feels more real than some of the earlier Disney Princesses.
The biggest issue I had with the film was that nothing seemed new to me. I feel like I'd seen it all before, whether it was in similar storylines in other films, in the previews, or even in the marketing and merchandise. The previews showed pretty much everything you needed to know about the first 30 minutes. I know we've all heard "I'll be shooting for my own hand!" in that Scottish accent plenty of times. It's a great moment for Merida, definitely, but it lowers the suspense about what's going to happen. I think they showed a lot of the beginning of the movie in previews because they wanted to keep the second half of the movie a surprise. But for me, even that was ruined by the merchandise that has been in the Disney Store for weeks. Three little triplet boys in the preview... and then three little bear cubs being sold as toys? It doesn't take much detective work to make the leap about what is probably going to happen.
But aside from the previews and the merchandise, the bigger problem was the fact that nothing seemed particularly new in the plot. A princess that doesn't want to be the typical princess and get married, but is more independent? I think I've seen that a million times in different forms, including in Disney movies (Mulan, and even Princess Jasmine). Human turning into an animal that needs to get turned back into a human before a certain deadline? I'm pretty sure that was the plot of The Princess and the Frog. And Beauty and the Beast, for that matter.
Merida is supposed to be a good role model for girls, and to some extent she is, but... could she be any more stupid? Who goes to a witch and makes the most vague request ever (I want my mom to change)? Anyone that has ever seen anything to do with magic knows that you have to be more specific in your requests or else you don't know what will happen!
One more positive, though: I liked the ending because to me, there was some ambiguity there. The curse said that Merida had to "mend the bond." She assumes that means the ripped tapestry that her mother had made, and she sews it up. However, in the process she also mends two other bonds - she manages to fix the rift between the feuding clans, and she also makes up with her mother and re-forms their mother/daughter bond. So which bond was the curse actually talking about? I like that it isn't so straight forward.
Ultimately I did enjoy Brave, and I would watch it again. But I'm used to Pixar bowling me over with amazing films like Up, Ratatouille, and Toy Story 3 - and this movie just didn't do that. I know Pixar for having amazingly creative ideas: the truth about the monsters in your closet, what would happen if you tied a million balloons to your house, toys coming to life, and a chef that's controlled by a rat. Brave just didn't have that unique feeling to it that the other Pixar movies have had.
Not surprisingly, Brave features a Celtic soundtrack. The music is very pretty and fits in well with the movie. Like other Pixar films, the characters aren't singing, the music is just background. The opening song was beautiful and I really enjoyed the song that was playing the first time Merida went out on her horse shooting arrows, it was a fun number - though I'm not sure the name of the song!
There isn't really a villain in this film, though there is a witch. She's not very wicked though, just kind of crazy. More of an enabler, really, by giving Merida the curse to change her mother. The true conflict here is the differing views and opinions of mother and daughter.
The WDW Connection
You can currently find Merida for a meet and greet in the parks, especially since the movie is new - no telling if she will be a more permanent character or not. And of course, you'll be able to find Brave merchandise. Time will tell if any other Brave attractions will be added to the parks.
Becky's rating: 8 out of 10
Jason's rating: 7.5 out of 10