"There comes a day when I don't have to be a Princess. No rules, no expectations. A day where anything can happen. A day where I can change my fate."
Pixar hasn't been convincing of late with a sequel to... Cars (2006) last year. Their newest studio offering, Brave, has received a mixed reaction, but fortunately it is a collective reaction more positive than the brickbats that dented the supercars in Cars 2 (2011).
Truth be told, I saw Brave and I liked it. I can't say it's near the top of what Pixar has done over the years like The Incredibles (2004), Wall-E (2008) and Toy Story 3 (2010), but it is in moderately-decent territory. It is a simple story with a likable lead female character, and holds sway some emotional truths that have been a staple in Pixar films of yesteryears.
Set in a long, long time ago in an era best described as medieval, Brave is a rousing tale of Princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald) finding the courage to save those she loves, and the determination to break free from societal and gender conventions that have been held up by her very conservative mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson).
Brave combines some humorous storytelling with curiously entertaining sequences of black bears and archery. If The Hunger Games (2012) pushed teenagers to learn archery, Brave may make the sport seem sensible to people with tiny fingers and toes. Merida will resonate more with younger viewers, a heroine figure who pushes her parents to their limits, and is handy with a bow and arrow for good measure.
Brave features great visuals, even for a Pixar film. There are moments of exquisite beauty as the Scottish landscape greets the wide-eyed viewer with a kind of elegant majesty only nature (or those animators at Pixar) could dream up.
The Scottish accent may be a problem for Singaporeans, especially those who have never heard Mel Gibson sound his battle cry in Braveheart (1995). But still, it is interesting more than distracting. In recent years, animated films are likely to feature some kooky character(s) solely for humor purposes. We gushed at the impossibly cute 'Minions' in Despicable Me (2010), now you will want to tickle the three 'baby' boys whose middle name is mischief.
At its core, Brave is arguably the most family-centric endeavour by Pixar since The Incredibles. Its parent-child underpinnings form the heart of the story. Themes of familial love, responsibility, guilt, and perseverance drive the narrative, though not as complexly as other Pixar features. But it is the theme of changing one's destiny despite the odds that ring the loudest. Everyone from disgruntled Singaporean adults to the Arab Spring could attest to that.