Saturday, June 23, 2012

Brave [2012]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  Roger Ebert (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

Brave (directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman along with Steve Purcell, all of whom were also involved in the writing of the screenplay along with Irene Mecchi) is a PIXAR production that continues the company's celebrated run of simply outstanding young family oriented animated films.

The story is about Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald) a young princess growing up in Scotland at the dawn of time.  Her mother Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson) is trying to raise in a manner to prepare her for her destiny of becoming "a lady" and, one day, queen of the realm.  Merida, however, prefers much more to be like her dad, King Fergus (voiced by Bill Connolly), being loud and carefree, riding-off on her trusted horse Angus into the forest and glens seeking adventure, becoming _really good_ at shooting her bow and arrow, etc.  Elinor, shaking her head tries repeatedly to bring her daughter down to earth.  All this running around may be wonderful, but not particularly useful for what Merida's gonna do when she grows older.  Perhaps just as frustrating to Elinor was the apparent lack of support on the part of Fergus, her husband after all, who's frankly enjoying hearing Merida talking of her exploits at the dinner table.  Yes, Fergus and Elinor have sons -- triplets -- but they are still way to young to do anything other than cause "terrible two" like mischief around the house/castle.  So Fergus is enjoying listening to Merida talking about her exploits while Elinor's increasingly reduced to shaking her head.

Things come to a head when Queen Elinor announces at the dinner table one night that she had written to all the heads of the major clans of the realm to come over to present their eldest sons so that Merida could become betrothed to one of them and that they had all accepted.   Yes, since Merida's parents were the King/Queen of the realm, it would be Merida's choice as to which of these eldest sons she'd become engaged to.  But it's clear that Merida's _not_ ready to choose anybody at this time (besides, to us viewers, it'd all seem really, really early to be doing this as Merida appeared to be no more than about 10-12 years old at the time).  And the whole affair becomes even more a disaster when it becomes obvious that NONE of the three "eldest sons" (of the three major clans coming over to present them) was particularly impressive.  They're all ... basically "losers." What now?

Well, Merida upset over all this being imposed on her, jumps on her horse and rides off into the forest.  There, by an ancient stone henge somewhere in a clearing in the forest, she comes across these little floating/glowing "willow wisps" that in Gaelic folklore lead one "to one's destiny."  So she follows them and they lead her to a little house where an old woman seems to live.  She seems to be a very crafty lady, having all sorts of little hand-made trinkets on display.  Merida, intrigued by her and her house (or shop?) ... out there in the middle of nowhere ... comes closer.  Talking to the old lady, she realizes who this lady is ... "You're a witch!" she declares.  The old lady, initially responds, "No ... I'm not a witch, I'm a ... woodcarver, see look at all my nice little trinkets and wood carvings, all _very reasonably priced_  ;-)"  However, after Merida keeps pushing the matter, she admits "Yes, I'm a witch..."

But actually Merida's _not_ upset that she's encountered this witch.  Having been led to this house by those willow wisps, she asks the witch: "Can you make me a spell?"  The witch does not want to.  Merida insists: "I need a spell that will change my destiny."  Again, the witch tries to change the subject: "Don't you want to buy any of my lovely wood carvings...?"  Merida (apparently Princess that she is ...) and not wanting to be distracted from what she really wants tells the witch/crafty wood carver:  "Yes, I'LL BUY ALL OF THEM ..."  But she makes clear that she _really wanted_ was that spell to change her destiny.

The witch tries to dissuade her.  She tells her that she's had that kind of request once before, and that it didn't particularly turn-out particularly well.  But after further insistence on the part of Merida she relents and conjures up a little cake that after being consumed would change her destiny.

So Merida takes the cake home with her.  Interestingly, she gives it _to her mother_ Elinor, believing that upon having a piece of that cake, her mother would change.  And she does ... the rest of the story follows... ;-)

My hat off to PIXAR Studios.  Once again, the animation studio has produced a wonderful, wonderful story of surprising depth.  I think of Finding Nemo [2003], Up [2009] and Toy Story 3 [2010].  As in the case of those stories ... you may want to bring some Kleenex.  Honestly, it's a lovely, lovely story worthy of being watched together by pretty much the whole family.

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