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Brave (3D) (AF)


Stars: Voices: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Billy Connolly, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Craig Ferguson, John Ratzenberger

Director: Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell

Once upon a time, in 2006 to be exact, Disney bought Pixar, makers of such seminal animated movies as the Toy Story films, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

And now, for the first time, Pixar has boldly gone where Disney often went before, and created a lively princess-led fairy story whose mediaeval Scottish heroine Princess Merida is even feistier than all her animated Disney prototypes, in a story that ultimately is more Disney than Pixar.

Languishing by a spinning wheel or moping moodily for Prince Charming to turn up is not Our Heroine's idea of a princess’s life. Teenager Merida is an ace archer whose mother Queen Elinor constantly attempts to teach her manners and berates her when she brings her bow to a meal (“A lady does not place her weapon on the table”, whereas the princess enjoys nothing better than shooting off arrows in the forest.

Which is where the major plot kicks in.

Merida clashes yet again with her mother when three potential suitors turn up to ask for her hand and she is told to choose a husband. The princess runs off into the forest, encounters the traditional witch and ends up with her mother being turned into a bear, not the most comforting animal in the circumstances since her father long ago lost one lower limb to one. And now it’s up to Merida to head off back into the forest and save the situation by saving her mother and the kingdom from escalating chaos…

Result? Lashings of lively family-friendly action and Hibernian brawling, set against vividly realised Scottish highland backgrounds and the superb animation we have come to expect from Pixar. While much has been made of the fact that the film showcases Pixar’s first female protagonist, my own view for what it’s worth is that the youngsters who are the film’s prime audience are unlikely to give a haggis for the producer’s bold venture into the field of filmic female liberation, except for boasting Chapman as a woman co-director and co-writer. And, possibly, for women being able easily to relate to a teenage girl’s constantly battling her mother to be allowed to think and act for herself.

Apt vocal casting adds impact. Macdonald and Thompson are perfect as the feuding mother and daughter, Connolly is, as ever, better heard than seen, as the bear-hating, one-legged King, Walters enjoys herself as the voice of the witch and there are useful contributions from Coltrane, McKidd and Ferguson.

All in all, Merida, whose exploits are brought to life in vivid 3D, makes a rather more likeable Scottish saviour than Braveheart.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Walt Disney. Colour by deluxe.
100 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 07 Aug 2012