When Pixar’s first venture into the world of Disney princesses hits theaters on Friday, audiences should expect to follow an unusual journey with “Brave.” Not only does this latest animated film from the highly-successful studio give viewers a first-ever female lead Pixar character, Merida, but also a surprisingly small cast, focusing almost exclusively on a handful of characters.
But unlike many previous Pixar films that have tended to tug on heart strings, reducing many a moviegoer to tears, “Brave” is not the same kind of emotional ride. There surely are highs and lows as teenage Merida fights her own internal struggle to “change” her fate of leading a dull, formal princess life, instead desiring to grow into becoming her own woman. But the princess story told many a time before ends there, as the film takes an unexpected turn – for the better or for the worse, depending on your perspective.
Pixar is anything but conventional and their take on a princess-driven fairy tale isn’t like any other Disney has produced. While there are some familiar elements, a princely challenge for the princess’s hand in marriage for instance, the majority of this tale meanders through a rather straightforward storyline for a Pixar film, as Merida is joined by one of her closest relatives in seeking a common goal. To reveal anymore would spoil the film’s core plot, which should remain a surprise.
This unexpected direction the film takes will not be for everyone. There is action, there is a small sense of adventure, and quite a lot of bonding. But “Brave” lacks an overall strong emotional connection to any of its characters, focusing more closely on what happens rather than how anyone feels about it. The action can be intense, perhaps a bit too much for a younger audience, hence the film’s PG rating. And believe it or not, there’s even a bit of comedic nudity – a first for a Pixar film.
There is also a strong emphasis on family to the film, centering around Merida, her mother, her father, and her three mischievous brothers. The former three are the film’s leads while the brothers serve exclusively as comic relief – or sometimes it’s comedy on top of comedy. Performances are solid and Scottish accents are thin and never difficult to understand, except for comedic purposes. There is a clear balance between all the silly and sometimes crass comedy and the strong action, but with very little drama mixed in.