Pixar’s ‘Brave’ hits mark with mother-daughter storyline

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, June 20, 2012 7:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Is “Brave” not quite up to the usual Pixar standard, as rumors had it? Does it lean a bit more in the direction of “How to Train Your Dragon” than, say, “Toy Story” or “Finding Nemo”?

Yes, probably. But if the movie isn’t up at the level of “Up,” it’s still a skillful piece of entertainment, with a plucky heroine and an offbeat setting. And nobody’s at that top Pixar level all the time, even Pixar.

“Brave” is set in ancient Scotland, where a mighty one-legged chieftain-king (voice by Billy Connolly) and his sensible queen (Emma Thompson) are sometimes exasperated by their willful daughter, Merinda (Kelly Macdonald).

Her birthright makes her a princess, of course, but the Pixar people take some pains to rub the sheen off the usual Disney princess (even if Pixar is now aligned in business with Disney). Merinda does adventurous “boy” things, shoots arrows like an Olympic athlete, and resists all efforts to marry her off to neighboring princes.

The opening half-hour of “Brave” concentrates on this, with plenty of slapstick. It’s amusing, if not exactly exciting, and it’s almost as though the movie is ignoring what turns out to be its actual subject.

That subject is the relationship between Merinda and her mother, which becomes more significant as the movie develops. The mood shifts to a dark, fairy-tale tone, as Merinda’s encounter with a forest witch (Julie Walters) leads to some uncomfortable complications.

I liked the movie more after that, although it vaguely feels like different stories stitched together. Merinda makes for an appealing heroine (Kelly Macdonald does a spirited vocal performance), even if her shimmering mane of red hair frequently upstages her — that hair must mark a new benchmark in digital animation.

The film’s in fun but not overbearing 3-D in some theaters. Some of the interior scenes are so dark they were difficult to see, but given the unpredictable vagaries of movie projection in otherwise state-of-the-art theaters, I might have watched the preview in a room with the wrong equipment or something. You take your chances in the digital era.

Fairy tales tend to have a dark nature, and this one’s no different, which explains the PG rating; some scenes of hunting dogs on the prowl and key characters in peril will undoubtedly be too much for younger members of the potential demographic.

“Brave” has a genuinely thoughtful mother-daughter subject within all the other silliness at play, and that’s what should make it memorable. It won’t hit deep the way other Pixar pictures have, but it’ll stick around in its own way.

“Brave”

A plucky girl in ancient Scotland has adventures while her parents seek to marry her off, a tale that turns darker and more interesting after various transformations in its second half. This film isn’t as enchanting as previous Pixar efforts, but the mother-daughter relationship at its center is well-drawn.

Rated: PG for subject matter.

Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Olympic, Stanwood, Pacific Place, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox, Cascade, Oak Harbor.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Whidbey duo uses fencing to teach self-discipline, sportsmanship to youth

Bob Tearse and Joseph Kleinman are sharing their sword-fighting expertise with young people on south Whidbey Island.

Lily Gladstone poses at the premiere of the Hulu miniseries "Under the Bridge" at the DGA Theatre, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Mountlake Terrace’s Lily Gladstone plays cop in Hulu’s ‘Under the Bridge’

The true-crime drama started streaming Wednesday. It’s Gladstone’s first part since her star turn in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

A giant Bigfoot creation made by Terry Carrigan, 60, at his home-based Skywater Studios on Sunday, April 14, 2024 in Monroe, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
The 1,500-pound Sasquatch: Bigfoot comes to life in woods near Monroe

A possibly larger-than-life sculpture, created by Terry Carrigan of Skywater Studios, will be featured at this weekend’s “Oddmall” expo.

Craig Chambers takes orders while working behind the bar at Obsidian Beer Hall on Friday, April 12, 2024, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Obsidian Beer Hall takes over former Toggle’s space in downtown Everett

Beyond beer, the Black-owned taphouse boasts a chill vibe with plush sofas, art on the walls and hip-hop on the speakers.

Glimpse the ancient past in northeast England

Hadrian’s Wall stretches 73 miles across the isle. It’s still one of England’s most thought-provoking sights.

I accidentally paid twice for my hotel. Can I get a refund?

Why did Valeska Wehr pay twice for her stay at a Marriott property in Boston? And why won’t Booking.com help her?

How do you want your kids to remember you when they grow up?

Childhood flies by, especially for parents. So how should we approach this limited time while our kids are still kids?

Dalton Dover performs during the 2023 CMA Fest on Friday, June 9, 2023, at the Spotify House in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The Red Hot Chili Pipers come to Edmonds, and country artist Dalton Dover performs Friday as part of the Everett Stampede.

wisteria flower in Japan
Give your garden a whole new dimension with climbing plants

From clematis and jasmine to wisteria and honeysuckle, let any of these vine varieties creep into your heart – and garden.

Great Plant Pick: Dark Beauty Epimedium

What: New foliage on epimedium grandiflorum Dark Beauty, also known as Fairy… Continue reading

While not an Alberto, Diego or Bruno, this table is in a ‘Giacometti style’

Works by the Giacometti brothers are both valuable and influential. Other artists’ work is often said to be in their style.

The Ford Maverick has seating for five passengers. Its cargo bed is 4.5 feet long. (Photo provided by Ford)
2024 Ford Maverick compact pickup undergoes a switch

The previous standard engine is now optional. The previous optional engine is now standard.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.