This time out… I thought I’d do something a wee bit different here at the ol’ Litterbox, with a look at a more mainstream film than usually makes it’s way here…. the latest Disney/Pixar animated offering, “Brave”.
Our synopsis? Well it all goes along sort of like this: “Brave”, set in the highlands of 10th century Scotland, tells the tale of a pretty tomboy princess and skilled archer named Merida who defies the age-old Marriage customs of her Royal Clan, causing chaos in her kingdom. After consulting an mysterious Wood Witch for help, her family becomes cursed and Merida is forced to mend her ways and undo the spell herself before it is too late to save the ones she loves from tragedy.”
Yes… yes… I know…. this is not the sort of movie your Favorite Catgirl usually watches… but…. with the spirit of my own lil’ “Warrior Princess” hidden away inside my secret heart, how could I not be drawn to a story like this? So…. “mainstream” or not…. Carolyn and I spent last evening at or local theater giving this one a look-see and now it’s time for my own “Neko-liscious” review. Was it as amazing as some of Pixar’s other animated films? And…. even more importantly… does it capture that feeling of fierce independent “girl power” that all women secretly wished for back when we were little wee lil’ girls who wanted to climb trees, shoot arrows, fight monsters, and save the day…. just like the boys…. but better?
Guess you’ll have to “Read On” and find out… 😉
Many of my Gentle Visitors may not know this… but your favorite Catgirl Princess really… really… likes animated films…. especially the recent Pixar inspired animation styles with their look that seems a cross between Japanese Animation and an almost video game realism all squooshed together to become something very unique unto themselves. My sweetie Carolyn knows…. and she also knows just how much I love stories about spunky heroines that stand up for themselves and thumb their noses at the conventional idea of being just “weak little girls” and nothing more….. So when we wanted a night out at the movies together Friday night, it wasn’t hard for her to convince me that maybe “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” might just wait for another evening just so we could make time for this one instead. You know something? Sometimes my sweetheart gets it juuuussst right. 😉
Our story opens with an introduction to our lead character Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) as an adorably tiny lil tomboy…. the wild and irrepressible daughter of King Fergus (voiced by Billy Connolly) and his beloved wife and queen, the regal Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson). It’s Merida’s birthday…. and she’s as happy as any wee tomboy can be to get the gift of a real bow just like her father’s…. even if her mother disapproves of the fairly un-ladylike nature of it all. Moments later…. a weird fey-like spirit… the “will-o-the-wisp” leads our curious girl into the woods just before her birthday celebration gets crashed by the attack of the terrible monster bear Mor’du. Elinor flees with Merida but mighty warrior Fergus stays to battle the bear alone to buy them time to escape…..
Years later…. and little Merida has grown into a lean, wild, flame-haired young lass who spends her carefree days galloping through the glorious wilderness of the Scottish Highlands on horseback firing arrows and fearlessly climbing mountains to drink from waterfalls always looking for that next adventure just waiting to be had. It’s a far cry from the boring life of etiquette lessons and royal functions that her mother thinks a princess ought to be doing. It’s a happy life… and she’s the dearest wild apple of her father’s eye… and the vexing, untameable tomboy her mother fights to reign in. She has brothers too…. three crazed little hellion triplets, Harris, Hubert, and Hamish who run rampant throughout the castle causing their own unique brand of havoc and chaos. These three are amazingly funny throughout…. and I only wish they had been given a bit more screen time with their crazy antics.
But this is Merida’s story… and the “meat and potatoes” of it is that old plot idea that all a Princess is really good for is to be trained for the day she can be married away to cement an alliance or further the needs of the kingdom…. whether she likes it or not. A day which has apparently finally come and threatens to take away the wild life our young heroine desires for herself. Yep…. Gentle Visitors, you know that isn’t exactly the sort of thing to make this wee Catgirl a happy lady… and I was soooo darn hoping that things wouldn’t end up with the sort of lame cop-out where Merida is forced to choose responsibility over freedom. That would not have sat well with my “Inner Warrior Princess”…. not at all. Luckily for me… and for dear fierce Merida… that’s not where our story is going at all.
Mind you…. the Mother-Daughter conflict between “Duty-vs-Freedom” does play central to the movie. It’s an important one…. and it’s handled well for the most part as Merida makes the big mistake of resorting to Witchcraft to try to shake that role Fate seems determined to force upon her. Faced with a choice between three hapless suitors from the other clans… none of whom would be any fair maiden’s first choice for romance… she humiliates them with a display of her warrior prowess and throws her mother’s plans for alliance into near warfare with those clans instead. Even this fails to extricate her from what seems to be her inevitable and unwelcome Fate…. so one terrible fight with Elinor later in which both Mother and Daughter say those nasty hurtful things you can almost never take back, she runs away to the sanctuary of the forest. Angry, desperate and wanting to dodge her mother’s iron willed insistence to tame her she gets led by those cryptic “will-o-the-wisps” again into the deep wood to meet a goofy Witch…. who moonlights as a woodcarver with a fixation on bears…. to get a spell to “change” her mother and free her from the Fate she abhors. Little did she expect what that “change” would be….
It’s “Spoiler Alert” time…. although most of you by now will probably be aware of what happens next, as big films like this almost never seem to keep their secrets for long. 😉
Yep…. the witch gives Merida a magically enchanted tart… one bite of which transforms Queen Elinor into a bear… and endangers her life given the enmity Merida’s one legged father has for all things “bear-ish”. From this point forward it’s a thrilling comical race for Merida to save her mother from the warriors of the clan and find a way to reverse the spell before it becomes permanent on the fortnight after it’s casting. Will our young heroine succeed? Will she somehow mend the terrible wound to the family her thoughtless actions have caused? Will her mother come to understand and still love her wild lil’ daughter even in spite of all her flaws? And…. will there be a finally showdown with that seemingly unkillable monster bear Mor’du?
C’mon….. it’s a Disney movie silly….. 🙂
Yes. We’re not talking a deep or meaningful plot here with lots of twists or turns. Is that a bad thing though? Lots of other Reviews I’ve read seem to find “Brave” somewhat disappointing overall…. as if it somehow needed to be “more” when compared to other of Pixar’s films like “Up” or “Wall-e”. Personally, this wee Catgirl thinks that many of these people just miss the point of it all. With a notion like that… Pixar would always be struggling to top everything that has come before with any film they make, and miss, I think, the simple point of entertaining an audience with their story. Seen on it’s own, “Brave” is a beautifully crafted film…. with both a look and story that work and the character of Merida is a worthy addition to the stable of other “Princess” characters from Disney films. She’s fun, spunky, and thoroughly likeable… and I’m certain there will be plenty of lil’ girls just aching to take up archery after this one. Not only that, but…. for me at least… it was a most refreshing treat to finally have a Disney Princess who made it through a movie without needing a “Prince Charming” just to make everything right in the end. Merida is definitely her own heroine….. and that’s not surprising at all when things are all said and done.
So what’s my rating for this one? That’s easy….. “Brave” is just excellent film-making and storytelling at it’s simplest and most entertaining. Both Carolyn and I loved it…. and it’ll definitely be a film I’ll want on DVD when it comes out. Neko gives it a firm 4 “Meows” out of 5 with plenty of satisfied purrs for all the nice touches and little bits scattered throughout. If you too, were that wee tomboy terror that worried your Mom with your own crazy un-ladylike antics as a child, you’ll have a lot of fond feelings for this film and the memories it will re-awaken now that you are a grown woman with maybe a crazy lil’ daughter of your own to watch after. It’s most definitely a “kid’s film” but definitely worth a look for we grown-ups too…. 😉
Our Trailer? Why most naturally…. 😉