Review: Brave

Disney and Pixar have done it again.  I don’t know what those people put in their coffee every morning, but I would wager it is derived from magic, and not the kind promoted by haggard, clever old women who spend their days carving wooden figurines. It is always a joy to be surprised by the introduction of a new Pixar masterpiece. Pixar’s latest film, Brave, introduces another lovable princess into the hearts and minds of Disney and Pixar fans across the world along with a brand new story of adversity between mother and daughter and how the strongest bonds can be broken by pride and arrogance.  It is a film born from the spirit of adventure and the desire to rise up against archaic tradition, to become the master of our own destiny and make life-changing decisions for ourselves. A cast of adorable characters, spectacular music, a witty screenplay and a little bit of magic bring the tale of Brave to life.   But is the movie any good?

The answer is a resounding yes.  I’m going to be honest, I was wholly underwhelmed by the trailers for Brave.  It was the first time this has ever happened, and I began to think perhaps I was finally growing up.  Fortunately,  Pixar has a history of pumping out hit after hit, from Toy Story and Finding Nemo to Monsers Inc. and Up.  Brave is no exception.  It is a tale of a young princess who’s desire to rebel against her destiny directly clashes with her Queen mother’s beliefs in strict tradition and staunch adherence to the conduct standards of a lady.  The themes that are presented in Brave will be instantly familiar to fans of Walt Disney films. This goes a long way toward making Brave feel like a member of the Disney family straight from the start.  What sets this movie apart from the rest is the narrative and the spectacular characterization of the film’s key players.

One of the definitive highlights of Brave is the princess’ family.  Her father, the King, is a grossly overgrown child who revels in his daughter’s rebellious antics and the frustrated responses of the Queen.  His hilarious gags easily snagged most of the laughs in the early parts of the film, only slightly overshadowed by the three mischievous little princes as the film moved into its second act.  Brave does a fantastic job taking traditional character types and give them a unique twist to make them feel fresh, funny and instantly likable.  Even the film’s “villain,” the witch, was absolutely adorable.  Despite being responsible for causing the majority of the drama in the latter parts of the film, you can’t help but find the witch extremely likable and blameless.  A strong argument can be made that the witch isn’t even a villain at all, but that is an argument I will save for another discussion.

If I have one complaint about Brave, its that the film felt a little bit too contained.  This is an extremely minor observation that I’m sure most people will look at me funny for even mentioning, but I felt the movie lacked the reach and sense of grandeur that is a trademark of most Pixar films.  For example, Finding Nemo is a story that sprawls across a vast ocean.  Monster’s Inc.  has their main characters traveling between the world of monsters and the world filled with human children.  Toy Story brings their characters all over a town filled with a huge array of unique individuals.  Brave sees their characters wander around in a forest and their castle for a little bit.  I felt the movie lacked the sprawling, imaginative worlds I’ve come to expect in my Pixar films, but this does not change how I feel about the movie at all.

If you’ve ever liked a Pixar film, you’re going to like Brave.  If you have children near the age of 5, you’re all going to like Brave.  The acting was impeccable. The gags were spot on and had me nearly rolling out of my seat.  The story is entertaining and imbued with enough emotional resonance to allow you to really empathize with the characters and their struggles.  There were a couple of times where I almost choked up, especially near the end.  I KNEW it wasn’t going to end the way they wanted you to think it was going to end, but I cared enough about the characters that the thought that it COULD end that way triggered an emotional response within me.  It’s like that scene in Toy Story 3 where you know they probably aren’t going to incinerate any of those toys, but the thought that they might is just enough to make you feel.

I strongly encourage anyone with even the slightest interest in seeing this film to pack themselves and their family into the car and go buy some tickets.  You won’t be disappointed.  Brave is a great way to spend an afternoon or an evening, and is a movie I foresee sitting in many homes.

★★★★★

For more of our thoughts on Brave, check out our special Brave podcast!

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62 thoughts on “Review: Brave

  1. I think that princess and her mother can also be seen as an allegory for women’s rights. Then again, I’m always wondering if something is a veiled interpretation of an issue or an event. Anyway, if I get the chance, I think I’ll see Brave.

    • I can absolutely see that. When I was writing the review, I had to decide if I wanted to talk about it being about women’s rights, or the rights of an individual to make their own decisions. Ultimately, I decided the latter is a theme that everyone can relate to rather than women specifically.

  2. I thought it was a fun movie and was really well made but, I was expecting something different from what the trailers showed. I thought the princess was going to have an adventure that wasn’t so dependent on the mother being there. Definitely right about the movie feeling too contained.

    • I was really not impressed at all by the trailers, so my expectations were fairly low. I was pleasantly surprised by the movie. What is it with movies lately having misleading trailers? Prometheus is another example of that.

      • Misleading trailers, or trailers that turn out to be better produced than the entire movie. Exhibit A? Snow White and the Huntsman. Great trailer. The movie? Um, depends on how much you enjoy Charlize Theron shouting at you with googly eyes…

  3. I am so excited to read this review. I, too, felt a big-fat-NOTHING in response to the trailers…but I held out hope that this was one instance in which the trailers didn’t reveal the best parts of the movie.

    Sounds like my hope will be well served…

    Thank you for sharing this!

    • Definitely, Mikalee! The movie really is significantly different from what I expected based on the trailer. You should check out the podcast to hear my and Jason’s thoughts, too!

  4. I liked this one a lot… but then as a 39 yr old former tomboy who drove my own mother insane with my antics as a lil’ girl… I’m probably the exact target audience for this one.

    I agree that “Brave” lacked the sweep of earlier Pixar offerings, but by no means should that be inferred as it being inferior to those earlier films. Sometimes a well crafted movie needs only to entertain to succeed…. If I had any problem with this one, it would be that I wish those little triplets had had more screen time. They were just a hoot!!

  5. I watched Brave this Sunday and I adored this movie. The most adorable were 3 little princes. Awww, the characters were very funny and cute at the same time. Congrats for being freshly pressed.

    • I never understood why movies release in certain markets first. I suppose it has something to do with keeping a pipeline of revenue going throughout the movie’s theatrical run.

      • I guess. But you’d have thought that since it’s set in Scotland there’s likely to be at least some interest in it over here, maybe making it viable to release here around the same time rather than nearly two months apart. Unless of course they’re waiting to see the reaction of it over there first. That said, it is premiering at the Edinburgh Film Festival next month.

        • Both of your points are probably accurate to some extent. You should definitely check it out when you get the chance. Hannah. Completely off-topic, but I would LOVE to visit Scotland at some point. Hopefully I’ll be able to take a long trip out to Europe next summer!

          • I will most definitely. As for visiting Scotland, it’s a beautiful place, I hope you enjoy your trip when you do get the chance 🙂

  6. Nicely done! It’s definitely not Pixar’s strongest outing, but it is a very refreshing take on the traditional “princess” fairy tale.

    But I whole-heartedly echo your plea to those who weren’t moved by the trailers. They (wisely, in my opinion) keep some very important plot details under wraps that really twist expectations!

    • Julio, out of curiosity, what films would you put ahead of this one from Pixar’s war chest? I touched on it a little in our podcast, but the film resonated with me in a really personal way because of my upbringing. I think one of the things that makes Pixar so incredible is that they make films that, for me at least, really bring my back to my childhood.

      • Good question! It’s a very subjective issue, but I think movies like “Ratatouille” and “Wall*E” were not only splendid films that delighted kids but broke ground by handling some very specific, almost adult-oriented topics (gourmet food and social satire) in very artful fashions. In many ways, I think they helped push the Academy towards their expanded Best Picture category.

        This is a VERY high bar set by a studio that almost always knocks it out of the park, but if I’m approaching “Brave” objectively it’s the one that it must be compared to in the pantheon of Pixar films. It’s nowhere near as edgy or boundary-stretching. There are also a few weaker points here and there, like the almost non-existent character development of the boys.

        Moving from objective, personally I’ve always loved “Finding Nemo” and it might take some precedence. Otherwise, from a personal viewpoint, it’ll probably evolve into one of my family’s favorites as we have a very young daughter of our own who’s already showing some of the strong will and daredevil tendencies of Merida. Plus, for whatever reason, I’m enamored of Celtic/Scottish culture and landscapes.

        So while in comparison it suffers slightly, in reality, I loved the movie and enthusiastically endorse it! 🙂

    • Thank you! I feel that reviews should do their absolute best to avoid any spoilers, considering most people read reviews BEFORE they watch the movie.

  7. Pixar and Disney are certainly very good at what they do and computer animation is no exception. Walt Disney was genius and the Disney corporation has continued that extrodinary vision he had without a hitch. I just wish I owned stock from the early days of Disney then I wouldn’t be so worried about my current lack of a job.
    But that’s a whole other story!

    • Wouldn’t that be spectacular. You and me both! In our latest podcast, we had a conversation about the huge loss Disney took on the film “John Carter,” and I made the comment that they probably made up for that loss in one week at Disneyland.

    • I actually didn’t get to see Cars 2, but from what I’ve heard, it’s not really worth watching. Now, I wonder if it’s not really worth watching as a movie, or simply not worth watching as a Pixar movie.

      • Cars 2 was a fun romp across the anthropomorphised world of vehicular transport (just imagine if the planet was populated by cars, ships, and trains instead of people), and the settings were gorgeous in my opinion.

        However, I must admit that Cars 2 really lacked the heart of all the other Pixar movies. It never gave me that tightening of my throat that I get when I’m about to tear up during other films like Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., Up, the Incredibles, or the Toy Stories.

        So, I’d say it’s still a great movie (Pixar never puts out absolute trash), but I hate to say that it was the one that fell a bit short of the Pixar mark. A lot of people suspect that Cars 2 may have been tainted by the fact that Cars has been the most successful in terms of merchandising for Pixar, but you should still see it, in my opinion.

        • My most favourite to least favourite of pixar movie

          Wall-E, The Incredibles, Up, Toy Story Series, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, A Bug’s Life, Cars series then Ratatuille. I will be watching Brave this afternoon to see where it fits.

          I never really enjoyed watching cars. Weird.

  8. I didn’t read most of the stuff because I am going to watch it tomorrow. I was so scared at first because your blog is called “Completely Overrated” but than I saw the 5 star at the bottom. Hope I enjoy the movie.

    • You know, we thought we were being witty when we came up with that name, but it has back fired on us in at least two different ways. First, we tend to like most things we discuss, and wouldn’t consider them overrated. Second, seeing people find our blog by googling “________ is overrated” is such a downer when its something we love.

  9. I felt your writing of the review was excellent, and I really also liked this movie! We just saw it tonight, and I DID choke up. Always do at movies like this, but especially now, and I have teenage daughters, so I almost sobbed. I really enjoyed this adventure, and would see it again.

    • Thank you for the compliment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the movie. I would love to see it again as well, but there are so many things coming out this summer that I want to cover on this blog, I just don’t know if I have time.

  10. I’m not a mad movie fan or reviewer, but the trailers have touched the nerve in my mind as I’m a red-haired lover of Scotland! So I was worried the trailers were going to over-impress and I’d be left sitting in a theatre completely bewildered and devastated! But no! It was great! I think the whole womens-v-individual right/courage theme is yet another thing for Pixar that they have as a theme throughout all their movies (Nemo, Monsters Inc, Up etc etc) Thankfully I thoroughly enjoyed it! and a bit of accent never hurt anyone! I will say, though, that although it didn’t decide to do a mass land adventure, I think it stuck to the Scottish Highlands idea and that’s great, especially given the theme of the film!

  11. We took our three year old to see this as his first movie theater experience. He really enjoyed it (except it was a little loud for him). The trailers really give no indication as to the actual story of the movie. It was a pleasant surprise. I don’t like to look into underlying themes such as the women’s rights, etc. These are kids movies. Let them be. The story was about the struggle that every kid goes through with their parents- independence. Thankfully my kid can’t run off into the woods to find a witch…

  12. About to go see Brave this afternoon, I can’t wait, wanted to go see it over opening weekend but didn’t get the chance. Wonderful to see a good review. The whole family has been excited to see this one for awhile, ages range from 2 to well into adulthood! (even our teenagers are excited about it!)

  13. I, too, was underwhelmed by the trailers I’ve seen for this movie, but your review definitely makes me want to see it! Thanks for sharing your opinions. 🙂

  14. I’ve known people who have looked at me askance for liking animated films at my age, but I’ve noticed when I talk them into watching with me, the magic grabs them. I just seen “Up” this weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing “Brave”. Thank you for making me even more enthusiastic about seeing it!

  15. Wonderful film and spot on review. I’d echo your sentiment on the feeling of containment when considering Pixar’s body of work, but that’s about the time I look at the Disney body of work and find it par for the course.

    My only qualm is that at times I felt like I was watching Shrek meets How To Train Your Dragon, which, I suppose is not too bad with all things considered.

  16. I was so looking forward to watching this and after reading your review, I can’t wait! But sadly it’s got an August release date here in the UK 😦

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