Politically correct critics crybabied for a Pixar film with a female protagonist and with "Brave" they finally have one. What the rest of us got, though, is a pretty weak entry in the Pixar canon: an original fairy tale sure to delight the kids while leaving adults out in the cold. We've pretty much seen it all before. Like the rest of us, these politically correct crybaby critics deserved better.
Set in Scotland when there were still clans and kings and queens, "Brave" introduces us to Merida, a princess just old enough to be married off but not docile enough to allow such a thing to happen. Merida is a tomboy, a free spirit, who lives for those rare days when she's out from under her loving mother's thumb and free to blaze through the lush forest on horseback. Merida feels she has a destiny beyond that of her Queen Mother, is pretty sure that destiny involves her acumen with a bow and arrow, but is certain it doesn't involve her being married off to someone she's not in love with.
With this dilemma established, the story begins, but other than the bizarre result of a witches spell, it never really surprises or emotionally lifts off in that memorable way we've come to expect from Pixar. Even stranger is that, with all the talk of destiny and all the focus on Merida's skill with a bow, where the story ends up just doesn't pay that off.
What is nicely done, though, is the story of a mother and daughter. If nothing else, as has always been the case, Pixar's heart, themes, and values remain firmly rooted in the right place.
"Brave" is beautiful to look at, as well. But Pixar's greatest accomplishment has always been in its ability to convey human emotion through computer animation, and that surely remains the case here.
Unfortunately, none of this can overcome a nothing-special story.
Brave (Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD + Digital Copy)
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC