Movie review – Meet Pixar’s fiery princess

2012-08-03 14:24

Film: Brave (Ster-Kinekor)

Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell

Featuring: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd and Craig Ferguson

Rating: 7/10

It’s time to update the Scottish experience – after all, Braveheart was 1995 – and what better vehicle than a story about a princess with a warrior’s heart who must learn that sometimes to change your fate, you have to first embrace it.

The trio directing this sweet cautionary tale has been around the Disney and Pixar animation block. In true Pixar fashion, the attention to detail is astounding.

Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a feisty redhead and her flowing shock of hair took the team three years to get just right. Even the blades of grass hidden in the shadow at the bottom of the screen move in perfect time with the wind blowing throw Merida’s hair and the trees in the Scottish glens.

But a film needs a lot more than technical prowess to get families through the door and Brave delivers on that front too. The story is by co-director Brenda Chapman, who developed Beauty and the Beast and served as story supervisor on The Lion King.

The tale is a simple one. Merida is a free-spirited girl who shoots a bow better than anyone else, constantly fights against the restraints of duty and its accompanying decorum, and argues with her mother.

When her mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson), calls the clans together for a ritual to choose her a husband, Merida takes drastic action.

She competes for her own hand in marriage, which threatens the peace and finally breaks down her relationship with her mother.

Her way of dealing with it is childish, but Merida emerges at the other side of this adventure as an adult.

Just as Finding Nemo was, in essence, a story about an overprotective father learning to give his child some freedom and a child learning when to heed his parent, Brave navigates the territory of mother and daughter relationships.

Also, Chapman, who took her inspiration from her own family, said in an interview that she was tired of princesses waiting around for princes. Much like Chapman’s other creation, Belle, Merida is a woman of action.

Pixar’s first female heroine does indeed break the princess mould, which is what we should expect from Pixar, the creative collective that has changed the movie landscape.

The whole family will love this film and Merida is a heroine today’s little girls can relate to.

As the mother of a girl child, I will be cheering Pixar on to continue the tradition of princesses who get out and do it for themselves rather than hoping one day their prince will come.

» Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala

1 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Snow White, Disney’s first princess to get her own full-length film, had what you might call helmet hair.

She is the blueprint for the plethora of princesses who followed, all similarly endowed with obedient hair.

Hair as a character trait has a long history in animation. Here are a memorable quintet.

2 101 Dalmatians (1961)
Cruella De Vil was the original villain, with her hair acting as an external sign of her internal dastardliness and duality.

Snow White’s stepmother wears her hair hidden, ditto the nasty Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, who wears a head-to-toe black cloak, hiding her crowning glory too.

3 The Rescuers (1974)
Madame Medusa, the villain who kidnaps an orphan to get at a stash of pirates’ treasure, is drawn with suitably devilish orange hair, with green eyelids to match. Her inside ugliness is manifest in her fashion and style choices – scary stuff.

4 Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Belle, the other princess’ character created by Brave’s Brenda Chapman, continues the tradition of well-controlled hair.

Except that in keeping with her character’s unconventionality, she has a forelock curl that hints at independence that springs free.

5 Tangled (2010)
The fairy tale princess who personifies the phrase crowning glory is Rapunzel.

She of “let down your hair” fame is endowed by Disney with a river of golden hair that has a life of its own and that has a thousand uses.

She too reflects her time – less sitting around waiting for princes and more proactive go-getting.

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