Brave: New World?

Not so much, sorry to say.

My husband and I choked back the bile that leaps into the throats of the middle class when the person behind the glass at the movie theater says, “That will be $50, please,” and took our girls to go see Brave this afternoon.

I couldn’t resist the previews — that mane of wild red hair, the bow & arrow, the dramatic, swooshing cloak.  A kids’ Katniss Everdeen, perhaps?  I was probably more excited than my daughters.

The movie did offer a couple of notable departures from the traditional Disney story format, but sadly, too many action-for-action’s sake sequences and plot shortcuts made this latest Pixar flick somewhat saggy and draggy.

We first meet the heroine, Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald, a Scottish actress who might be familiar to Harry Potter fans as the Grey Lady from HP7  Pt. 2) when she is but a wee lass, a princess on an outing for her birthday.  She receives a bow and arrow from her father just before the royal family is attacked by a ferocious bear.  Merida’s mother, Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson), whisks the child away on horseback while the king fights the great beast.

When we next see Merida, she has grown up to be a sassy, willful teenager.  Merida infuriates her mother when she publicly challenges the royal tradition of the local clan lords presenting their first born sons to compete for the princess’ hand in marriage.

During the ensuing fight with her mother, Merida tears a tapestry depicting the royal family and runs away into the woods.  There, she meets a witch who gives her a spell to change her mother, and then the adventure begins.
The rest of the movie explores the broken mother-daughter bond and what must be done to repair it.  I had expected the mother to die in the usual Disney fashion during the bear attack in the opening scene, but instead, the movie breaks new ground by having Elinor live to become the mother of an ungrateful, feisty adolescent.  Refreshing, for Disney anyway.

The movie’s most poignant scenes were of the two main characters trying to reconnect under great duress.  Without giving too much away, my favorite moment was when Merida has to interpret her mother’s non-verbal communication during a tense moment back in the castle.

But these moments were minimized by unnecessarily long scenes of bear chasing, bear fighting, dudes fighting and the kind of Disney clowning and pandemonium that starts to feel condescending after awhile.

My 8-year-old daughters didn’t like the bears and fighting and found those scenes scary.  They weren’t so scared that they had to leave the theater, but the scenes were upsetting enough to distract them from the film’s deeper meaning and from their appreciation of Merida as a gutsy heroine.

Visually, there were many beautiful and artistic moments.  The luminous blue Will-o’-the-wisps that lead Merida through the forest are very fetching, as are a number of the matte illustrations of Scottish landscapes.

The poster above is an example of the look of the moodier scenes, aptly accompanied throughout by Patrick Doyle’s pretty score that includes songs by Mumford & Sons and Scottish singer Julie Fowlis.

If I don’t have to comfort my daughters from bear nightmares tonight, then I just might bring up the movie with them tomorrow to discuss the journey of Merida and her mother.