By Caitlyn Collins | June 22, 2012
Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Writers: Brenda Chapman (story), Mark Andrews (screenplay), Steve Purcell (screenplay), Irene Mecchi (screenplay)
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Contrane
I’m a big fan of many Pixar films, but who isn’t really? When Pixar’s latest feature, Brave, was announced I was excited. There has been, in my opinion, a general lack of noteworthy female characters developed by Pixar. Overall, I enjoyed many aspects of Brave, but this film is definitely more in-line with the tradition of Disney princesses than I would have liked. Isn’t it high time we see an animated female character who is NOT a princess?!? Despite her royal bloodline, I still found myself liking Brave’s Princess Merida.
Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a bit of a rebel from the start, which is precisely why I like her. She has a happy childhood with her mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson) and her father, Fergus (Billy Connolly). Merida is much more interested in non-princess activities, such as archery, much to her mother’s dismay. A bit of a daddy’s girl, Merida is presented with her own small bow and arrow one birthday. That same day she runs into the nearby forest (because it wouldn’t be a princess story without one!) chasing after the will-o’-the-wisps. (The will-o’-the-wisps are said to lead you to your fate.) She is chased out of the forest by a legendary, formidable bear-king.
The story flashes forward several years and Merida now has triplet, hellion brothers who provide quite a bit of comic relief with their various antics. She’s also reached the age where her mother is constantly reminding her of what a princess does (dress for the occasion) and does not (place her weapons on the table) do. Elinor is, of course, grooming her daughter for her inevitable marriage.
Fergus and Elinor invite the three lords of the kingdom – Lord Dingwall (Robbie Contrane), Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd) and Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) – along with their firstborn sons to their castle. The sons are invited to enter into a competition in order to win the hand of Fergus and Elinor’s daughter. Only, Merida outsmarts them all, but she does not realize the consequences of her actions. Desperate to change her circumstances, Merida turns to the witch (Julie Walters) in the forest (shocking, right?) for a spell. The witch fails to give her all of the information, and the consequences of the spell must quickly be reversed or else the results will be permanent.
There are quite a few Disney clichés surrounding Brave, but Merida is a worthy role model in many ways. She thinks for herself, challenges tradition, is a badass with a bow, etc. But this film also looks at the fragile state of relationships between daughters and their mothers. King Fergus is a brawny Scotsman who is not afraid of anything…except his wife. And while he dotes on Merida and encourages her in many ways, Merida must also learn important lessons from her mother. Elinor desperately tries to refine her daughter by teaching her needlework, how to sit, and what to wear — all of which Merida resents. As a result, both women let pride get in the way of actually communicating with each other which proves disastrous. Staying humble is an important lesson for all to learn.
I have no doubt Brave will become the next beloved Pixar film for its charm, beauty and wit. However, I sincerely hope that Pixar will choose a non-princess for its next female lead.