“Brave” marks the long-awaited arrival of a Pixar heroine and a welcome female touch to a summer of testosterone-heavy blockbusters. It is the story of a Scottish princess, but this isn’t your typical princess story. Although, truth be told, few modern princess stories are.
Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a fiery spirit, a gifted archer, and a princess of Scotland, has a problem with her mother. It’s a tale we’ve heard before and a tale we’ll hear again. Yet, it rings with truth and the comfort of familiarity.
Merida’s mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson) is everything you could want in a queen. She’s honest, fair, level-headed graceful, and has a firm hand (with the king mostly). The king,Fergus (Billy Connolly), seems to know who’s running the show, but she does it with such poise.
Merida does not feel the same. Basically they’re two fantastically brilliant women who just can’t see eye to eye. Elinor wants her daughter to marry and become the queen she knows she can be. Merida wants to be free. It’s a tale as old as time. So, as so often happens in such tales, Merida runs away and finds a witch ( Julie Walters) with a real knack for woodwork.
What follows may be less than groundbreaking storytelling, but you won’t hear that from me…no spoilers. What it is is well done. While there may still be predictable female roles (the princess, the queen, and the witch) they are presented in non-traditional ways.
There is no villain (aside from war, and arguably men), there is no damsel in distress, there is a girl her mother and their story. This is a tale about the strength and wisdom of women.
The girl power message is made particularly clear when the men, left to their own devices for several hours, declare all-out war within the very walls of the castle. Sorry guys, you may feel short-changed here, but you’ve got Woody, Buzz, Nemo, Marlin, Remy, Wall-E, Lightning McQueen, shall I go on?
It may not be the everyday girl story that so many feminists yearned for, but it is a family-friendly tale with strong women, and yes, it made me cry.
When Pixar announced that after 17 years of male-centric storytelling, a girl would finally get a shot at a central plot, expectations were immediatley set. When it became clear that it would be a princess story a few feminists protested.
Whichever side of that debate you fall on, the fact remains that this tale of a Scottish lass (of royal blood) is more than worthy of the Pixar name and a welcome addition to their pantheon of family-friendly, smart films.