In Disney/Pixar’s Brave, Merida has more than just red hair in common with The Little Mermaid’s Ariel. Both of these teenage Disney princesses rebel against strong parental figures to head towards a fate that is all their own.
The difference between Merida and Ariel, though, is that Brave features a fully intact family – mother, father, and siblings. This was a refreshing change from most Disney movies, which tend to feature single parents and only children (not that I have *anything* against either of those demographics, but for as much time as we spend watching Disney movies, sometimes it would be nice if one of the families looked like ours). I do have one complaint about Brave’s nuclear family: there is nothing very original about their roles and dynamics. In fact, Merida and her family are just like most sitcom families on tv right now: capable, long-suffering mother (check), big-hearted, yet bumbling father (check), over-the-top teenage angst (check), and mischievous younger brothers (check). It all plays very much to formula. Having said that, I still found myself enjoying the characters and grew to care about them, despite my wanting to see a bit more complexity from each of them.
Brave’s greatest strength is perhaps it’s breathtaking animation. This film is lush, exquisite. I leaned over to my daughter at one point and said, “It’s crazy how REAL that horse looks!” The film is a visual treat, to be sure.
There are two main storylines in Brave: the idea of changing one’s fate, and the idea of the strength and importance of family. The theme of family rang strong and true for me, and my daughters and I (along with most of the audience!) were teary-eyed at the end. I definitely recommend watching Brave with your daughters – especially if they are teens. The whole idea of fate, though, became a bit muddled in the storyline, and was not helped by Merida’s periodic narration. I *think* the film was trying to say that changing one’s fate happens more by changing what’s inside of you than in changing what’s around you, but I think the moral aim was a bit too lofty and delivery unclear.
Parents of young children will want to know that there is an intense scene in the first 15 minutes of Brave, one that caused a mass of screaming and crying from the little kids in my audience. I was surprised that my own 4yo wasn’t crying with the others, but he did grab my arm and say to me shakily, “I thought the whole time that bear was going to JUMP OUT OF THE SCREEN at me.” The movie has a lot of yelling, rough-housing, fighting, and intensity sprinkled throughout, so that is something to consider if your child is sensitive to that kind of content. There are also two scenes when we see characters’ naked cartoon bums, which I think surprised the parents more than the kids (my 4yo thought both scenes were hilarious).
Brave is a gorgeous, worthwhile film. I enjoyed many aspects of it, including the voice actors, the many humorous scenes, the setting of time and place. I liked that there is no love interest for Merida here – she is a Princess without immediate need of a Prince. Still, I wanted more depth, more originality, more…more from Pixar, a company our family has grown to adore. I think it might be getting harder and harder for them to top themselves, which is why Brave ended up, for me, being more mediocre than magical.
*Disclosure: Our family was provided media passes in order to pre-screen this film. No other compensation was received. All opinions are honest and my own.