Pixar/Disney introduces a spunky teenage princess named Merida (pronounced “Mary-da”) in this animated 3-D action fantasy, set in medieval Scotland.
During her childhood, wildly willful Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) often found herself at odds with her prim-and-proper mother, Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson), but never more so than when she’s told that it’s time for her to prepare for marriage. Schooled in the use of a bow and arrow by her goofy, garrulous father, King Fergus (voiced by comedian Billy Connolly), Merida rebelliously bests three bumbling suitors, scions of neighboring clans, in an archery tournament, jumps on her trusty Clydesdale horse, Angus, and defiantly rides off into the forested Highlands. Following twinkling blue will-o’-the-wisps, she’s led to a devious, wood-carving witch (voiced by Julie Walters). Distraught Merida begs for a magical spell to change her mother’s mind about the tradition of arranged weddings. But when things don’t exactly go as planned and the spell threatens to become an ominous, ill-fated curse, Merida is faced with the challenge of righting the mistakes she’s made.
Conceived and directed by Brenda Chapman as a new role model for 21st century girls, this mother/daughter relationship story, which is co-directed by Mark Andrews, veers away from the traditional European fairy tale mold of having a passive young woman wait around for a handsome prince to claim her. Instead, this plucky Celtic heroine with cascades of curly red hair is determined to explore her own path and have some exciting adventures along the way. Her tomboy character is obviously modeled on the legendary virginal Arkadian huntress Atalanta, whose name is derived from the Greek word meaning “equal in weight.”
As always, Pixar’s meticulous CG animation is bold and beautiful, particularly when Merida introduces lady-like Elinor to the fanciful freedom inherent in nature’s blissful, outdoorsy pleasures, orchestrated by Scottish composer Patrick Doyle with Gaelic folk singer Julie Fowlis.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Brave” is a sweet, spirited 7, boosting girl-power…and Enrico Casarosa’s Oscar-nominated “La Luna” short that precedes it is even more enchanting.