Though the willing and eager audience craves more girl-centric films with positive messages about self-worth outside of male-connections, writers have yet to come to grips with how to effectively craft that storyline. The insert is the singular, fleeting moment where Merida gets to show her real stuff--the kind of stuff that all girls have, but few are allowed to express...even in the 21st century.
The animation is beautiful, fluid, flowing and gorgeously colored with vivid hues. The crowning glory for animators was Merida's flowing locks, which, while certainly a feat of illustration, look yarn-like in some instances.
The storyline, which was originally penned by the originally scheduled director, Brenda Chapman--Pixar's first female director--was interrupted when Chapman was replaced by Disney-Pixar with director, Mark Andrew...and that's why this film lacks the cohesion Chapman would have certainly lent it had she been allowed to remain in place. Had Disney-Pixar execs been BRAVE enough, the film could have been a history-making ground-breaker. Instead, we get a spoiled, head-strong girl whose whining gets rewarded even though she uses untested magic to turn her loving mother into a bear. WTF???
There were lots of three-stooges-esque laughs that helped make the 93-minute film more bearable. What was nice to see was the addition of Merida's father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), play a jovial, supportive father to his daughter and a loving husband to his wife, Queen Elinore (Emma Thompson). Very nice indeed. It was an element that should have propelled the story forward with gusto but instead, that gusto was stalled by the odd insertion of cliched emotional responses.
If my teen turned me into a bear for two days, I wouldn't go riding off into the sunset with her, smiling and laughing--especially after being chased by men and dogs, tied down, hurt, hungry, and then, have to fight off a psychotic bear, another victim of the bear-obsessed, wood-carving witch responsible for my predicament. No. There'd be no smiling at all.
I loved the moment where Merida stands between her father and her mother-now-bear. It was the most powerful moment of the film, and far-too short to make BRAVE seem, well...courageous.
If you want a great female character, you need a great female writer AND director. And, you need to keep them in place. In Hollywood, a disproportionate number of female writers are replaced after writing a full script than male writers, who still dominate the field--similar to directing. It's the reason why there is a littany of failed female-focused films in the box-office graveyard. Elektra and Catwoman come to mind, but in terms of animated films, NONE to date allow a girl to not be a princess or in some sort of heterosexual struggle with finding the right "prince."
Do you know what real girls do? The girls who aren't affected by the predominate hegemony of our times? They swing from trees. They use tree branches as swords. They SAVE pretend princesses. They don't sit in pink-filled rooms full of barbies dreaming of their wedding. Some do, of course, but how many of those have been conditioned to do so? Having been the feminine tomboy climbing rocks and trees, swinging from branches and fighting off thieving scum with fake swords, I can definitively say that we exist. And though my comic-book-reading, monster-seeking self felt more unique in the 1970's, today, there are more girls allowed to be themselves than at any other time in history. Please, please, please give them something better...BRAVE is an important evolutionary step, but it's pathetic that it's a step taken 92 years AFTER women earned the right to vote. Almost 100 years with a political voice, ladies, and our daughters still only have princesses as their heroes??? It's not enough. Not yet.
Disney-Pixar, if you're really BRAVE you'll hire someone like me to help you pen an appropriate script for your next girl-cenric film. And soon. But what will happen instead are more excuses--like BRAVE didn't do as well as other Pixar favorites so let's stall the next girl-oriented project because "there's just not enough audience-support." Bullshit. There's plenty of support but not for lackluster storylines. If you want a film to succeed, you have to write a good CONSISTENT story. That's the bottomline. And the bottom-line for BRAVE is a generous 7.5/10, if only for the quality of the animation.