Fittingly chosen to close the curtain on this year’s revamped Edinburgh International Film Festival, Disney Pixar’s latest Brave (2012) is a Scottish-based fairytale starring the vocal talents of Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly. A noticeable departure from Pixar’s usual output, Brave’s childhood fable about the role of girls and women within the family unit feels decidedly Disneyfied throughout – for better or for worse.
Merida (Macdonald) is a young and impetuous princess of a noble Highland clan. Her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), has groomed Merida all her life to develop into the model princess she’s expected to become. However, there’s a fire smouldering in young Merida which burns as brightly as her vibrant red hair, a passion to become more than just an accessory for a boorish king, yet a passion which unfortunately leads her into an ill-considered deal with a neighbouring witch. In an attempt to make her mother more amiable to her wishes, Merida accidentally inflicts a curse upon her dearest mother.
Despite the critical mauling received by Cars 2 (2011), Pixar’s reputation as the world’s most esteemed purveyors of feature animation somehow remained unblemished, with any release from this prestigious studio met with heightened anticipation. Ironically, ‘brave’ is not an adjective you would choose to associate with Pixar’s latest venture, with this straightforward fairytale lacking much of the cleverly manufactured peril or emotional clout normally associated with the bouncing table lamp brand.
The familiar plight of a young woman attempting to break free from the shackled expectations of her sex and stature is an incredibly well-worn conceit, something Disney itself have been regurgitating for countless years. However, a lacklustre Pixar film still manages to stand head-and-shoulders above the majority of bland American family films. Brave’s rich aesthetics are arguably its strongest assets, sublimely capturing the majesty of the Scottish Highlands, whilst the film’s bawdy script, mischievous red-headed triplets and kilt-lifting clansmen help capture the vivacity of the nation’s spirit.
Underwhelming, yet at the same time technically accomplished, Brave further emphasises the growing realisation that Pixar perhaps aren’t quite the epitome of perfection many optimistically perceived them to be. Yet despite such signs of wavering weakness, this latest outing just goes to show that even an off-day at Pixar HQ can result in a well-told tale more than worthy of your time and attention.