“Brave” marks a couple of firsts for Disney’s Pixar studios: the first film with a female lead and the first with a period setting.
There’s nothing else groundbreaking about the film, but it’s still a warm, amusing, family-friendly feature.
The heroine of “Brave” is feisty Scottish princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald). Merida is an independent-minded lass with flowing red hair and a knack for archery — and absolutely no desire to follow tradition by marrying the winner of a contest between the sons of the region’s lords.
Merida’s refined and proper mother, Elinor — voiced by Emma Thompson — is quite insistent, however, leading the princess to a dubious decision: She asks a witch (Julie Walters) for a spell to change her mom’s mind.
Merida doesn’t think her request all the way through, though, and the spell has unexpected consequences.
“Brave” features slapstick humor over its first third, mocking the bumbling local lords — Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson and Kevin McKidd (“Grey’s Anatomy”) — who clash over Merida’s hand, and giving free rein to Merida’s terrifying young triplet brothers.
After the witch’s spell, the movie turns into an action movie, until the inevitable warmhearted conclusion.
Billy Connolly is a standout among the vocal cast as Merida’s father, the boisterous, oversized king Fergus, who admires his daughter’s independent streak. Thompson provides a nice contrast as his wife, and Mcdonald supplies the requisite pluck and determination as Merida.
“Brave” is entertaining and terrific to look at, but it rarely pushes the envelope like previous Pixar films. It’s not particularly inventive or deep and not as adult-friendly as, say, a “Toy Story 3.”
Still, if you don’t expect perfection, “Brave” should be fully satisfactory.
Who is braver than Sully, the heroic beast in the inventive “Monsters, Inc.”