The word 'Pixar' isn't in the dictionary, but it was the definition would probably read:
PIXAR - 1. the art of visual storytelling of the highest quality; except for Car 2, sorry about that. 2. Movies for kids, stories for all ages. 3. John Ratzenberger's part-time job. 4. Gods of computer animation. 5. Did we apologize for Cars 2 yet?
Brave is the newest feature film from Pixar Studios and fits every one of those definitions and so much more.
Brave is Pixar's 13th film and marks their first film where a female character is their main protagonist. The film follows a headstrong and care free Scottish princess of DunBroch named Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald. Merida fights her mother Queen Elinor, voiced by Emma Thompson, when it comes to the royal customs and duties as the princess. The other three Scottish clans in the land arrive to DunBroch so each of their lords' first born son can compete for Merida' hand. Not willing to go along with tradition Merida escapes the courtships and tries to change her fate with the help of a witch and a spell. Merida gets more than she imagined and has to try and reverse the spell before it destroys her family and brings the clans to the brink of war on her kingdom.
Pixar really has stepped up their game after that Cars 2 debacle last year and out done themselves here. Brave is spectacular on so many levels I don't even know where to begin. From the incredible Scottish inspired musical score and soundtrack, the perfectly casted voice work, to the advancements in their already revolutionary style animation. All of those praises and compliments may sound nice but its Brave's story is what truly makes it the complete package.
There have been strong female characters in the Pixar universe before, Jessie (Toy Story 2 & 3) and Elastigirl Girl/Helen Parr (The Incredibles), but none have ever carried their own movie. Brave not only has a strong female character for its lead in Merida but also has a second with Queen Elinor in the biggest supporting role. Having female lead characters may seem trivial to some, considering Disney (not Pixar) has done princess stories multiple times, but never (or least not that I can remember) has there ever been a mother/daughter relationship at a film's forefront.
However just being the first doesn't mean anything if there isn't heart, and man does Brave ever have heart. The genuine connection between Merida and her mother Elinor is what makes this story truly special. Sure there is a ton of exposition throughout the film so the direction the mother/daughter reltionship quickly becomes fairly obvious yet Brave's emotional conclusion is never effected by it. Remember it's still a kid's movie after all, the little ones might need a little exposition sometimes. Also hats off to Disney for how they have marketed the film. Key aspects of Brave's mother/daughter story are left out of the teasers, trailers, and TV spots which made viewing this film that much more refreshing and heart warming.
Visually speaking Pixar has done things on the screen that can only be described as jaw dropping-ly gorgeous. Myself being part Scottish, and having visited/lived in that beautiful land, I have a sort of built in sentiment for Brave's highland setting. There may have not been any notable landmarks within the film but Pixar managed to capture the essence and beauty of Scotland's northern landscape brilliantly. Putting my semi-national basis aside, the level of detail that was achieved with Brave's human characters is truly remarkable. According to Disney, for the first time in over 25 years Pixar rewrote their entire animation system. Without going into the whole technical mumbo-jumbo of it all this new system allowed Brave to use more vibrate colours, detailed shades, life like human features, and most importantly better hair animation. Sounds ridiculous but human hair is one of the hardest things to animate. After you watch the film and see Merida's wild red hair it is almost like a secondary character in itself it's that amazing.
I have a hard time throwing around labels like "masterpiece" or "work of art" when rating the value of a film. Referring to a film like Brave as perfect in anyway is not only setting a tough standard for it to live up to but can unfairly skew audiences' expectations. Deserved or not in my opinion these labels are used critically on an extremely common basis to describe the quality of a film because they no doubly make for great headlines and promotional material for advertisements. Very rarely does a film warrant such accolades, and even when it does words like "masterpiece" or "perfection" just don't seem to the film justice because they are so over used.
In my 2 years writing for Showbiz Monkeys I've given high and low scores to films but never a perfect score. Like I said before it raises the bar for the reader before going into the film with seemingly unfair expectations to live up to. It's also hard to ignore my Scottish heritage, my love for the famous Glasgow born comedian Billy Connolly who voiced King Fergus (Merida's father), and everything else that comes with my personal background and remain both fair and critical on the film itself. Taking all of that into account it's impossible for me to not recognize Brave as anything short of perfection and Pixar's newest classic. Brave may not be Pixar's best film to date but it earned every single one of those 5 stars and deserves the title of a cinematic work of art.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.