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Review: 'Brave' is not Pixar's best, but better than 'Cars'

'Brave' is more Disney-like than Pixar's best work, but the best thing about the film is heroine Merida.

By Peter RainerFilm critic / June 22, 2012

'Brave' doesn't push any envelopes, but it's nice to have another feisty film heroine in protagonist Merida.

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Merida, the Scottish princess in the Pixar 3-D animated feature “Brave,” is a tomboy who knows her way around a bow and arrow. I don’t think “The Hunger Games” crowd will necessarily cross over into Disney territory, but it’s nice to think that there is now at least one more feisty female role model in the movies – even if she is digital.

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Merida is the best thing about “Brave,” which, although technically up to Pixar’s standards, is more conventional – more Disneyish – than that studio’s best work. It lacks the intricacy of imagination that made films like “The Incredibles” and “Finding Nemo” so exhilirating. On the other hand, it’s a whole lot better than the “Cars” movies. I’m glad to see the Pixar people have pulled themselves out of that rut.

Pixar is noted for the “heart” it injects into its stories. In “Brave,” the core relationship is between Merida (voiced by Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald) and her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), who is turned into a bear by a witch. How these two survive, while attempting to cast off the witch’s spell, is alternately touching and (deliberately) silly. Their scenes together are in a different, more emotionally incisive key than the slapstick ribaldry involving the one-legged King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and the parade of woebegone suitors Merida rejects. No envelopes are pushed in “Brave,” which was directed by Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews, and no genres are subverted. It’s a safe experience; but safe, in this case, is better than sorry. Grade: B (Rated PG for some scary action and rude humor.)

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