Brave is an animated film by Pixar that, though it is intended for children ages 7 or 8 and up, is actually a fun-filled and heartwarming adventure for all ages. The narrative follows Merida, a young Scottish princess, who loves archery and exploring the wild Scottish countryside astride her gigantic horse Angus. She does not like conforming to social norms or pressure and this leads to a ruinous confrontation between her and her mother after she embarrasses her suitors by beating them in an archery test. Merida ends up (spoilers ahead), using a potion to make her mother change her mind that actually turns her into a bear! From this point forward the story concentrates on Merida and her mother trying to undo the curse and growing closer to each other as they begin to see life from one another’s perspectives. At the end, everything is set right and Merida is given the right to choose her own suitor when she deems the time is right and she and her mother are closer than ever. This story was Pixar’s first film with a heroine as the lead and demonstrates the importance of being able to see life through another’s eyes and the value of being true to oneself.
Along with a stellar message, the movie is also extremely well animated and acted, with gorgeous landscapes and detailed imagery, strong characters, and good dialogue. It does contain several sequences of peril and violence that could be disturbing to younger children, particularly the scenes with the films antagonist, the great bear Mor’du. This bear comes into the film to heighten the tension and it definitely works, the final climactic battle between Mor’du and Queen Elinor in her bear form is tense and would be fairly scary to young children or those who are sensitive to violence or scary images. There is also some mention of nudity, largely based around kilts that while not graphic and mainly comical, could be offensive to some. While there is also not any placement of merchandising in the film, there is a gargantuan amount of material available to buy related to the film that has been extremely well marketed and is very popular with children.
Reviews have been kind and positive for this film, praising it for not giving in to the pressure to make the main character story about her romance, but focusing on a mother-daughter relationship and personal growth and acceptance. Common Sense Media did critique the film for not breaking the new ground Pixar is famous for in terms of story, but did laud it for its excellent animations and stereotype breaking heroine. Roger Ebert in a review on his website also cited his regard for the films animations and discussed how children will greatly enjoy the film, but also mentioned the lack of originality or groundbreaking as a hiccup in the viewer experience. While these are both valid critiques, I would argue that the film’s main focus of mother-daughter relationships and a princess who is happy being herself is an incredibly important message for young girls especially and gives an alternative to the all pervasive romance-focused image that cascades through their everyday lives.
Images from fastcocreate.com, deeprootsathome.com, and disney.wikia.com respectively.