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Billy Connolly
Kelly Macdonald
Emma Thompson
Julie Walters
Robbie Coltrane
Craig Ferguson.
Brenda Chapman
Mark Andrews.
Irene Mecchi
Steve Purcell
Brenda Chapman
Mark Andrews.
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Side-stepping a political marriage, irresistible Scottish princess Merida (Macdonald) comes up against her immoveable mother (Thompson). So she turns to magic. And so things get worse.

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Once upon a time, there was an animation studio that could do no wrong. Well, that’s not entirely true. A Bug’s Life is only pretty good, Monsters, Inc. not half as funny as it thinks it is, and we’ll come to Cars in a moment. Anyway, this animation studio was rightly held in high esteem not just for the exquisite look of its films, but for the wit, wisdom and emotional colour with which it invested its varied fables. But of late, a shadow has fallen across its pineapple-yellow happy rooms, their communal breakfast carts and bottle-green think tanks. Care of the empty dazzle of Cars 2, sequel to the empty dazzle of Cars; the opening, indeed, of Cars Land in Disneyland (weren’t such tawdry brand extensions beneath their lofty ideals?); and the flop-by-association of John Carter, which their famed Brain Trust could do little to salvage, they appear short on inspiration. For the first time in its rich tapestry, the latest Pixar film is approached with something like trepidation — there have even been rumours of behind-the-scenes conflict, key creatives handing in their Hawaiian shirts. And its first original story since Up appears to be set in the corny realms of fairy tale usually dished up by Mother Disney.

And yet, at the end of the astonishingly good first act of Brave, you want to cheer. Feisty heroine Merida (voiced with thistle-prickled sass by Kelly Macdonald) has won her own hand in marriage by beating a trio of unappealing local suitors in an archery competition, splitting an arrow in a shiver of tensile slow motion. Ready proof of Pixar’s still inexhaustible visual brio, marrying a virtuoso play on movie dynamics with emotional illustration. Merida is a girl on a mission, like Gregory’s Girl retrofitted to Skyrim. It’s the launch pad for a great film, but we get only a very good one.

By the way, gratifyingly we are leagues from singing mice and wedding-cake castles. Drawn from a swatch of ursine-scented Highland folklore, the tale unfolds in a soothingly majestic Celtic Scotland, sprawling into the hazy distance in 3D (to this jaded reviewer’s eyes, one of the best examples of the format thus far). Check out the way things aren’t in focus.

What is sharp as day is the canniness of the lead characters. Crowned with a waterfall of magnificent coppery curls glinting like Irn-Bru, plucky, exasperated Merida is a modern girl in an ancient world (i. e. she won’t marry some local snotling). This is not to her mother’s liking. Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) is the brains of the kingdom with iron-black locks — save for a streak of Sontag-silver — and one eye on the fragile alliance of local clans: the Dingwalls, the Macintoshes and (wonderfully) the MacGuffins. Vetoing both the romantic carry-on of dreamy Prince Charmings and the current vogue for gender-reversed girl-warriors (although Merida’s archery-tekkers would send Katniss for an early bath), the story is tightly and movingly focussed on this tangle of mother-daughter relations. More like Miyazaki, in fact. Cue: a convenient Macbeth-sprung witch offering a risky spell. Cue: risky spell (without giving the game away, the mother ends up metaphorically embodying the daughter’s opinion of her). Cue: the rest of the film. You can see where it’s going, and that is exactly where it goes.

By the way, led by Billy Connolly’s one-legged, rabble-rousing King Fergus, the men are uniformly eejits: a hilarious, woad-slapped, kilt-wrapped, punch-drunk tartan army bearing more than a passing resemblance to the tribal nitwits of Astérix books. That is apart from Merida’s pipsqueak brothers: a triplet of curly-haired, scene (and bun)-stealing micro-dervishes sure to be championed by junior viewers.

Amongst the hurly-burly of the second and third acts (the film is distinctly three-tiered) there is some ravishing animation (perfect facsimiles of rolling animal gait, rousing midnight getaways, all those ambient details we shouldn’t take for granted: the rippled surface of a lonely loch, the flicker of torch light, the scrupulous textures of stone, wood and tartan). But the film lacks discovery, the way plot unfurls in unforeseen directions in top-table Pixar. That extra layer of interpretation. How Ratatouille was really about the pursuit of art. How the Toy Storys are really about the vexations of middle management. How The Incredibles is a better version of Watchmen than Watchmen.

Brave is an enthralling entertainment, sure to make you laugh. But it’s also a journey of self-discovery readily apparent to anyone weaned on Disney. Even then, the moral is a bit of a fudge — follow your heart and listen to your parents. Group hug. Happily ever after.

No less lovely than former films, in many ways lovelier, but Brave is boutique Pixar: less ambitious, more succinct, excellence at a lower ebb.

Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Average user rating for Brave
Empire Star Rating

I loved previous Pixar films- save the two Cars outings- and the minute I saw a princess, archery and Billy Connolly, I was intrigued. When I walked out of the cinema, however, I had a very puzzled look on my poor face. All in all, there was about 2 and half minutes of archery, a couple of zingers from Connolly and an over-used Disney trope. I would recommend that you see Frozen- it handles the classic 'Marrying-a-dude-you-just-met' idea with grace, humour and gorgeous song-writing to boot. I wa... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by livapr99 at 20:37, 20 May 2014 | Report This Post

Brave? Eh.

The main problem with Brave is the first 2 acts. There just cliched. from the story to the characters, its just been done before. ESPECIALLY the characters. Right down to the triplets. Merida is just Jasmine and Belle combined but a redhead. Queen Eleanor is your stereotypical "old fashioned" mother. King Fergus is a bit of a bonehead. The three kids competing for the hand of the Merida's hand in marriage are a bunch of eye rolling dim wits. And the triplets are just a bunch of sneaky ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Darren47 at 20:41, 25 January 2014 | Report This Post

More second rate Disney than first rate Pixar - Poor ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Uncle_Ethan at 20:54, 14 September 2013 | Report This Post

More second rate Disney than first rate Pixar - Poor ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Uncle_Ethan at 20:54, 14 September 2013 | Report This Post

An Entertaining Romp, But A Squandered Setting

The thing I've always admired about Pixar is the fact they're not afraid to try anything new. Whether it's anthropomorphic animals or exceptional humans, the studio is always testing the water to find new ways to reach audiences on an emotional level. In many ways, Brave is no different: the setting of Scotland is wonderfully realized and the animation looks absolutely stunning. The characters are all multi-dimensional a voicework is top notch, notably Billy Connolly's king. However, for everyth... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 03:15, 25 December 2012 | Report This Post


Great animation, good story and excellent voice overs makes this a pleasure to watch for adults and children alike. Definitely one to buy for the blu ray collection ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Magicbigp at 19:33, 02 December 2012 | Report This Post

It Was Quite Good, To Be Honest.

It has outstanding animation and a decent story line, but I was expecting a lot more from Pixar after their success with Toy Story 3. The characters were OK, but rather stereotypical. Like Cars, it is OK, but a breath of fresh air to entertain people during the time to make way for newer and better projects to be worked on by Pixar, I partially recommend it. (3/5). ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by SebMModerns at 22:12, 31 August 2012 | Report This Post

RE: It wis braw!

Following the conclusion of what is perhaps the greatest film trilogy of all time that is Toy Story (although there are talks about an unnecessary follow-up); Pixar continued their line of work with Cars 2 that is considered their first big disappointment; Mr John Lasseter, shame on you! A year has passed after the return of the talking cars, and now Pixar changes their game as they are tackling their first fairy tale, along with their first female protagonist. Set in the Highlands of Scot... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 17:56, 29 August 2012 | Report This Post

It wis braw!

Loved this film. Great animation and characters. Plot a bit vague but you hardly cared. No ashamed to say I had a wee 'greet ' near the end! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jocklet at 11:36, 29 August 2012 | Report This Post

Merida - finally a feminist-friendly Disney princess

Agree with Empire's review, the first act is so promising and the rest of the film feels somewhat underdeveloped. At times it felt a little simplistic or lacking in tension, and there is a discovery related to an event that occurs in the prologue to the film which felt unexplored. I couldn't help wondering whether the storyline had suffered from rewrites that curtailed certain plot threads and didn't fully develop others. However, the fact that the storyline felt so original and was still touch... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Buttercup87 at 17:25, 23 August 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Brave

It's alright in a sort of largely generic way. Disney's writers have submitted a second-draft/detailed-outline, and Pixar's animators have made it look great. It's certainly better than I feared it might be, but nowhere as good as I'd hoped. Brave has all the edge of a marshmallow, and at times is just as sickly. It's heart's in the right place, but it lacks sincerity. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 23:54, 22 August 2012 | Report This Post


1. I saw it in 2D and everything was still out of focus. Spent the first 20minutes constantly screwing up my eyes - very irritating. 2. Just tell me a story, stop trying to teach me a lesson. 3. I came out of the film and said 'I bet whoever wrote that is a woman who looks exactly like the main character'. It felt incredibly self-indulgent. Turns out she's a dead ringer. Check Brenda Chapman out on IMDB if you don't believe me. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by faulknerdrummer at 22:04, 20 August 2012 | Report This Post

Check Out The Way Things Aren't In Focus.

Agree with the Ian Nathans Empire Review. I loved the round about way he says that the 3D is shit because its all out of fucus. I saw the film in 3D and I was thinking the 3D projector has not been calibrated correctly...or the whole film was a conversion shock horror. I expect more from pixar. A very good film but go watch the 2D one. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bighousewill at 14:20, 20 August 2012 | Report This Post

RE: A BRAVE new direction for PIXAR!!

I loved it. I laughed and cried in equal measure and it looks beautiful. It is however, more Disney than Pixar.     One issue I had was the two terrible songs. ... More

Posted by st3veebee at 11:31, 16 August 2012 | Report This Post

A BRAVE new direction for PIXAR!!

Pixars latest forray into pixal glory is a pretty dark fairytale story. It begins with a rebellious princess named Merida (Kelly Macdonald) who would like to have her own hand in marriage rather than succumb to her stern mothers (Emma Thampson) requests. What follows are good performances from it's leads including Billy Connolly and Robbie Coltrane as Merida who showcases tremendous archery skills in a great slo-mo scene but then she get's caught up in a right mess when she concucts a scheme... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ramone87 at 10:22, 16 August 2012 | Report This Post

A BRAVE new direction for PIXAR!!

Pixars latest forray into pixal glory is a pretty dark fairytale story. It begins with a rebellious princess named Merida (Kelly Macdonald) who would like to have her own hand in marriage rather than succumb to her stern mothers (Emma Thampson) requests. What follows are good performances from it's leads including Billy Connolly and Robbie Coltrane as Merida who showcases tremendous archery skills in a great slo-mo scene but then she get's caught up in a right mess when she concucts a scheme... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ramone87 at 10:22, 16 August 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Brave

In Scotland, King Fergus of Clan DunBroch presents his young daughter Merida with a bow for her birthday. Just after Merida encounters some will-o’-the wisps, Mor’du, a giant demon bear, attacks the family. Merida escapes along with her mother Queen Elinor while Fergus fights off the bear at the cost of his left leg. Years later, Elinor has given birth to identical triplet boys and Merida has become a free-spirited teenager. Her mother informs her she is to be betrothed to the first-born ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 22:21, 15 August 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Brave

She's screwed over because magic is never an answer and as any genie will tell you you need to be remarkably careful with your choice of words. She got what she asked for - and it was partly being taught a lesson for thinking magic would solve the worlds ills. Also, the witch was just a wee bit obsessed with the whole bear thing. ... More

Posted by elab49 at 18:34, 15 August 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Brave

Brave Set in 10th century Scotland this is a fairly reasonable attempt at a dark-ish fairytale by Pixar. Its nice to see some originality being used for the fable and a good effort in keeping some realism or historical accuracy, visually at least, at the same time (I think, looks historically fine). The film looks tremendous, first thing you notice hands down are the visuals. Pixar have really gone to town here and put together some of the most gorgeous vista's I've seen for some time... More

Posted by Phubbs at 16:52, 15 August 2012 | Report This Post

RE: good not great

Just think unusually for Pixar it was lacking in the humor department, though still better than the rest we've had so far this year (The Lorax!!! ... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 16:34, 13 August 2012 | Report This Post

good not great

Disappointing by Pixar's standards. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by sephiroth7 at 15:00, 13 August 2012 | Report This Post

Excellence at a lower ebb???? WTF

It seems to me like empire decide to give a movie a rating, before they even see it,, just review the film as a stand alone piece of work regardless of what film studio it was made by!! As animated movie's go,, this is fairly average ,, better than Cars 1 and 2 yes, but that's not saying much ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jamie_M at 14:44, 13 August 2012 | Report This Post

Just lovely.

I loved the themes of this film. I watched it with my mother and just loved the relationships we are shown. I'm also a huge Connolly fan so I had to watch it just based on that. Pixar is finally returning to strong, memorable characters and giving us a story that sticks rather than the seemingly remixed stories we saw in Cars 2 and Toy Story 3. This film is right up there with 'Up' or 'WALL-E', and I found it really enthralling to watch. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JLY119 at 11:55, 13 August 2012 | Report This Post

RE: "excellence at a lower ebb" Bollocks

i've not seen it yet, but it looks remarkably like a Dreamworks film.. ... More

Posted by maffew at 11:55, 13 August 2012 | Report This Post

"excellence at a lower ebb" Bollocks

It's a 3 star film. Go and see Madagascar 3 when it comes out, instead. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by badsanta at 00:50, 13 August 2012 | Report This Post

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