tek's rating: ½

Brave (PG)
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Caution: spoilers!

So, this is the second Pixar movie I've ever had the chance to see in a theater (the first was The Incredibles). I've been looking forward to it for a long time, so I'm really happy that I got to see it now instead of waiting for the DVD. Oh, but I should say, before the movie opened, I ordered a special "Brave" tin of tea from Republic of Tea. It arrived the day the movie opened, but I didn't get to see the movie til more than a week later. Anyway, I went with my cousins and their parents (who were visiting from Ohio), which was also fun. And um... well, before the movie started, there was a Pixar short called La Luna. And then the movie started. The sound quality in the theater wasn't great, which made it hard to make out some of what the characters were saying, with their Scottish accents. After a little while it got easier; I'm not entirely sure if the sound quality improved or my ears just adjusted.

Anyway, it starts with a young princess named Merida celebrating her birthday with her parents, Fergus and Elinor. Fergus gives her a small bow and arrow set for a present (of which Elinor disapproves), and Merida takes to it right away. Soon after that, when she goes into the woods to retrieve the arrow she'd shot, she sees some will-o'-the-wisps. And... a bit later, after she returns to her parents, a giant bear attacks. We don't see the outcome of the battle, because the movie flashes forward a number of years. Merida is now a teenager who doesn't like all the lessons her mother constantly gives her in how to be a proper lady. She prefers going off on her own to have little adventures, whenever she can. But one day, her mother announces that there's to be a gathering of suitors- the firstborn sons of three other Scottish lords- competing for Merida's hand in marriage. Which she absolutely can't stand the thought of, and this leads to a major fight with her mother. Oh, I also should mention that Merida now has three little brothers- triplets- who don't really say anything, but get into lots of trouble. They were kind of funny, I guess. Vaguely reminded me of Kim Possible's younger twin brothers... but not really. (Meh, my mind goes to weird places.)

Anyway, Merida slashes a tapestry portrait of her and her parents, before running off to the woods. There, she sees some will-o'-the-wisps, as she'd done years ago, and this time follows them. They lead her to a little cottage with a strange old woman who's selling wood carvings. But Merida quickly figures out that she's a witch, and bribes her into providing a spell to "change my mother." It's kind of annoying how vague her request was, but... necessary for the plot, I guess. Anyway, the witch provides an enchanted cake for Merida to give her mother. And she goes back home and gives it to Elinor as a "peace offering." And soon after having a bite, she changes into a bear (who can't talk). Merida gets her little brothers to distract Fergus and all the people who had shown up for the contest, while she tries to get her mother out of the castle. They head back to the witch's cottage, but find she's gone... though she left a message, about how the change would be permanent after a couple of days, unless Merida could mend the broken bond... which she takes to mean the tapestry she'd torn. (One can't help but think she's being too literal; it's painfully obvious what the message was really referring to. Though it's the kind of thing where... it seems to me like what needed to happen to break the curse actually happened long before the climactic moment when the curse actually... breaks. But whatever, drama is drama.)

Um... oh, and eventually they run into Mor'du, the same giant bear that had once nearly killed Fergus. And that ties into a story Elinor had told Merida about some ancient princes or whatever. And it ties into something the witch had said. I don't want to say how the movie ends, but it's safe to say it's a happy ending. I'm actually leaving out a lot of details I think, but I also think I've said too much. I want to say the movie reminded me vaguely of any number of things I've seen before, such as Brother Bear, and... I dunno, lots of things. Merida kind of reminded me of Jane from Jane and the Dragon (both because of her defiant attitude and her curly red hair); she also kind of reminds me of pretty much every Disney heroine since "The Little Mermaid." The fantasy elements of the story seemed like something you'd see in a Studio Ghibli film. But... if I sit here trying to think of every possible comparison between this movie and other things, I'll never finish the damn review. (I kind of want to compare it to How To Train Your Dragon, but I probably shouldn't. Although Craig Ferguson had roles in both movies....)

Well, I'm always a fan of stories where a hero (or heroine) refuses to accept the unfair circumstances in which they find themselves, and fight to forge their own destiny. Which is, of course, very blatantly the point of this movie. Also, critics like to point out that this is the first Pixar film to feature a female protagonist. I'm at the point where, that doesn't exactly seem revolutionary to me. I've never really distinguished between male and female characters that way, and I've seen so many female leads (true, not nearly as many as male, but still) that I can't quite be bothered to notice it on a studio by studio basis. I'm certainly glad it happened with Pixar, and I hope it continues to happen with, you know, every company that makes any kind of movies or TV shows or books or what have you. But to me, the important thing is always the story itself.

Anyway... the movie's story is... decent. A bit disappointing, by Pixar's usual standards, but that's okay. Because it's unfair to expect that every movie a studio puts out is going to be incredibly awesome. Sometimes "good" is good enough, you know? And this movie was definitely very good. Stunning visuals, as always, likable characters, exciting action, touching personal drama, reasonably fun humor. I also want to mention that it came out in 2012, and I decided I'd get it on Blu-ray instead of DVD, but I didn't get a Blu-ray player until 2021, so that's the second time I saw the movie. And I suspected I'd raise my rating of the movie ever since I first saw it in a theater (when I gave it three smileys). And I was right, the second time I watched it, I added one and a half smileys to my rating. Also, I didn't get to see the post-credits scene in the theater, but I did on the Blu-ray, so that was fun. The Blu-ray (and the DVD) include two bonus short films. One of them is "La Luna", which I mentioned above. The other is "The Legend of Mor'du". I decided not to bother watching them, though, because I'd already seen the former and kind of want to watch the latter on Disney+ (which of course didn't exist at the time the film was released). Not sure when I'll get around to that....

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Oh and hey, in August I received a Brave bookmark from Disney Movie Club. Which is a ruler on the other side. So, yay.