Brave 2½/4

June 29, 2012 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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At first glance, Brave seems much like an old-fashioned animated Disney princess film done using new-fangled technology…writes James Berardinelli.

Most of the elements are in place: the plucky heroine, the faithful animal companion, a mysterious wizard, and a character-building journey. There are even a few songs. Looking deeper, however, there’s something missing: narrative momentum. The thinly-written storyline takes us on an adventure, to be sure, but not necessarily one viewers will be interested in taking. The tone is uneven and more often morose than joyful. The pacing is slow and at times almost tedious. The end result is something that feels like it was put together from a jumble of Disney clichés tacked onto the skeleton of Beauty and the Beast.
The lack of both a romantic element and a real villain is only part of the problem. Another issue is that the lead character, the wild, arrow-shooting, red-headed Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is more of a brat than a spunky, strong-willed girl. Okay, there’s a fine line but, for the most part, Disney has managed to stay on the right side of it. Watching Merida, the only thing I could think is that her parents indulged her too much. As the movie progresses, we see that’s true of her blustering father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), who lets her get away with just about anything. Her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), tries to lay down the law but ends up being turned into a bear for her troubles. The spoiled Merida, not liking to be constrained by Mom’s rules (especially the one about marrying a prince), finds a witch and obtains magic that, when applied, results in Elinor becoming bear-able. The rest of the movie is spent trying to reverse the spell before Big Game Hunter Fergus inadvertently kills his wife.

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