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Brave (3 stars)

Beautifully realised Scottish-set animation from Pixar, featuring Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson

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Brave

Historians might chafe at the vague approximation of medieval clan politics, and linguists query the anachronistic slang, but on the whole you’d have to be a paranoid curmudgeon indeed to take offence at this much-vaunted trip to Scotland by Pixar animation studios.

Brave, the story of a rebel princess who defies her mother’s marriage plans for her, is slight, happy, sincere and gorgeously realised. The last comes as standard with this outfit, of course; but the animators’ painstaking attention to detail is particularly rewarding when applied to the natural world, as with the stunning under-seascapes of Finding Nemo; and the landscapes, water, creatures and sky here simply zing with beauty. And Pixar’s human characters, once a bit of a sticking point, have come on leaps and bounds; these characters are neither creepy avatars nor overly cartoonified mascots. Is the kick-ass tomboyishness of our protagonist Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) a significant Pixar statement, or just PC pandering? Well, one wouldn’t wish to overstate the influence of a bundle of ginger pixels, but in a world of catwalk glossed Bratz dolls, girl groups in lingerie and cow-eyed Disney princesses in sugar pink, Merida's autonomy and scrappiness does seem like an overdue corrective – for girl and boy viewers alike. She makes her own mistakes, fights her own battles and isn’t anyone’s sidekick; nor is she raddled by insecurity, or in need of a prince to point the way.

It’s also unusual to see sympathetic analysis of a mother-daughter relationship; and if Merida’s travails with Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) aren’t quite as sure-footedly affecting as the fatherly traumas of Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc, they are central to the story, and attended to with care. Story isn’t Brave’s strong suit – it relies too heavily on a rather random-feeling deus ex machina – but its gloss, confidence and sense of fun go a long way to compensate.

Showing at Edinburgh International Film Festival Sat 30 Jun. On general release from Fri 17 Aug.

Brave Trailer

Brave

  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 100 min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
  • Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson
  • UK release: 3 August 2012

A rebellious Scottish princess defies her mother's marriage plans and unleashes a curse on her fairytale kingdom, then must complete a number of challenges in order to lift it. The kick-ass tomboyishness of Merida and luscious landscapes make up for a wavering story.

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