Pixar’s latest is a hugs-aplenty mother-daughter story more than anything else. Brave is built on Scotland lore of the 10th century, and if you see the poster, the teen heroine Merida is a bows-and-arrows expert with fiery red hair. Her lunkhead father hates bears and makes oafish pronouncements. Her bossy mother wants her betrothed immediately because this is custom. The suitors in waiting vying for her hand in marriage are a bunch of posers. Merida battles her mother Queen Elinor with words, and once that doesn’t work, she puts on a spell on her mother only to then recoil in regret.
This isn’t a tale about finding the proper handsome Prince. Sometimes teen girls just aren’t ready for marriage, if only the Scots would read Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club” (I joke). Merida especially doesn’t want any of the three who have stepped forward to compete, by-way of Scottish games, for her hand. The final lesson taught here is that mothers and daughters need to hear each other out, that even in a man’s world, feminine feelings must not be suppressed.
Merida finds a witch in the deep green forest, takes the potion back for her mother to consume (in the form of a cake), which turns mom into a bear. This is obviously a hasty decision, a terrible mistake that Merida has made. The curse will be permanent the morning after next if Merida cannot find the fabrics and words crucial to reversing the curse. When mom is a Bear, they talk and talk until they have rekindled that special mother-daughter love and respect. But the impulsive King Fergus wants to lock up the children and spear the Bear a.k.a. Mom (the 3-year old in the seat next to me was upset crying). Girls ages 6-14 are ideal for the movie.
Adults will find the animation imaginatively lush and green, historian-geeks will compare the Witch to other Disney witches found in “Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty.” The result there is that this Witch is kind of half-dramatized, more greedy and comically scatter-brained than malicious. As a girl-driven adventure it is a rather harmless, fairly affectionate achievement for most audiences above the appropriate age. On the Pixar measuring stick, “Brave” is ranked somewhere between the overrated but wistful “Up” and the unfairly maligned joke-guzzling “Cars 2.”
Kelly MacDonald (“In the Electric Mist”) as the girl Merida. Emma Thompson (“Nanny McPhee”) as the Queen and Mother Elinor. Billy Connelly (“The Last Samurai”) as King Fergus.
93 Minutes. Rated PG.
FAMILY MOVIE / FOOD FOR THOUGHT / WEEKEND DINNER AND FAMILY MOVIE
Film Cousins: “Braveheart” (1995); “Pocahontas” (1995); “Mulan” (1998); “Tangled” (2010).