Brave, Pixar's first female-focused film, feels sadly slight. It's a nice, if simple, story of mother-daughter bonding filled with just enough danger and action and humor to keep its younger audiences engaged. It features a few touching moments and, as always, Pixar really knows how to pull at heartstrings. The stakes are high for the characters involved, but as a whole the film feels small and underdeveloped. Compared to the father-son story of Finding Nemo, Brave just feels a bit empty.
That said, I'm glad I saw it, and I'm glad I saw it alongside my mother.
The animation is simply gorgeous. Every strand of protagonist Merida's hair moves on its own, creating a wild and effective look for the spirited girl. The wisps who lead her to her fate dance about and the bears cut impressively scary figures. Perhaps the prettiest scene in the whole film comes when Merida shoots at the archery contest. The exquisite details in the arrow, the bow, even Merida's fingertips were a marvel to watch.
In fact, Merida herself is a winning protagonist--entirely recognizable as a clever, well-meaning but frustrated teenager in the middle of a spat with her mother. The bond between the two characters is fantastic, giving the term "mother bear" a new meaning. Merida's relationship with her father is a nice one as well, given the way they joke around with each other and the way he hesitates to give her boundaries or rules. Naturally Mum comes off looking as the bad guy to Merida, though the audience knows she means well. Merida's relationship with her little brothers is defined in a fun way as well, though they never speak a word through the whole movie.
It's really too bad the film doesn't live up to its Pixar predecessors. Merida et al deserve more.