CINEMA: News Weekly
Ripping great fun for all the family
, July 21, 2012
Brave (rated PG), a 3D computer-animated fantasy adventure film, is reviewed by Symeon Thompson.
Rollicking and rambunctious, with the rich and riotous humour one would expect from Pixar teaming up with Billy Connolly, Brave is a mini-masterpiece manifesting the magic and might of motherhood, and illustrating the issues that can arise between mothers and daughters. More than that, it’s ripping great fun for all the family.
Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is a feisty and fire-headed lass, more keen on trick shooting and adventuring than learning to be a proper princess.
She’s encouraged in her riotousness by her robust and huge rough-hewn father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly, proving that no one does outrageous masculinity better than him), much to the sorrow of her elegant and overpowering mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson, articulate and arch, and proof that feisty does not necessarily mean festy).
King Fergus and Queen Elinor
(voices by Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson) in Brave
The lords of the three great clans, Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane), have come to the castle for the Highland Games where their three heirs will vie for the hand of the princess. Princess Merida is less than keen on an arranged marriage and so hatches a plan where she wins the contests, thus gaining her own hand, and humiliating the great families, as well as her own.
The feuding between mother and daughter becomes so much that the princess rides off into the forest, where she encounters a batty old “woodcarver” — okay, a witch (a delightfully demented Julie Walters) — from whom she gets a spell to change her mother’s mind. But the spell has unintended devastating effects and so must be set right. You’ll have to see the film to see what they are — it wouldn’t do to spoil it for you.
From its opening scene it’s clear that this movie is about the strength and importance of family, and the differences between men and women. At the start, the princess is threatened by the horrific Mor’du, a fearsome, gigantic bear. Her father instantly fights him off, losing his leg in the process, while her mother bundles her up as they ride away. Hint hint: the bear matters.
This sets the story up not only as one about the differences between the sexes, but about the ferocity that family should have. Being neither a mother nor a daughter, this reviewer ought not opine too much; but it’s inescapable because at its heart this film is about the difficult, but deep, relationship between mothers and daughters.
Queen Elinor is reminiscent of that most fearsome of matriarchs, played in the last few years by Ms Thompson — Lady Marchmain of Brideshead Revisited (although that film reputedly twisted the whole point of Evelyn Waugh’s story and can’t be relied upon). Lady Marchmain wants the best for her children, and is a generally kind, good-hearted, woman, but she is one who has real trouble putting herself in the position of anyone else, and so has trouble connecting with those of her children who are different.
Similarly, Queen Elinor believes there’s one way to be a lady and that anything else is a daft dereliction of duty. However, her love and maternal instinct are similarly strong and she would do anything for her children. The problem is not so much what these women value, because they value quite good and noble things, but that they’ve not figured out, because their children are a wee bit different from them, that there may be a case for adopting a different approach.
Visually, this film is vibrant and vigorous. As expected from the master-workers at Pixar it is a delight to behold as it soars and races with the virtual cameraman having a keen and deft touch to get every shot just right. It rides along like Princess Merida on her great steed, Angus, with infinitely more control and delicacy than would be expected from such a massive creature, backed up by a stirring Celtic soundtrack that keeps it propelled ever forwards.
The humour is big and broad and blokey, while also having the wit and wise-grin causing moments that are a hallmark of Pixar’s work. The princess’s little brothers, Harris, Hubert and Hamish, are mischievous little imps, quite reminiscent of many of the adventurous young things that one runs into at masses and home-schooling events — quite too sharp and independent for their own good, and utterly unflappable and unstoppable.
There was the risk, as has been pointed out by other critics, that this may’ve been another pseudo-feminist propaganda vehicle; but it certainly is not. The difficulties expressed are not those of being a girl in a boy’s world, but the communication breakdowns that seem to be par for the course as children reach adolescence and are convinced that their parents’ principal duty is running their lives.
Brave shows in lively fashion that this is not the case, and that at some point, if we don’t get along with our parents, then we’ll face troubles — and who doesn’t want mummy to run to, and daddy to defend you, when things are tough?