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Courage, independence and family all beautifully animated by Pixar.
By Tom Glasson
June 25, 2012
By Tom Glasson
June 25, 2012

There's perhaps an unintentional double-meaning in the title of Pixar's new film Brave. Thematically, bravery naturally forms the substance of the lead character's development, but the name's also an interesting take on the company's creative direction. Not only is this Pixar's first film to centre around a female protagonist, it's also the first with a female director (Brenda Chapman).

At least... it was until Chapman was replaced by Mark Andrews halfway through. So, 'Brave-ish' perhaps? But then you recall Andrews co-wrote and worked as second unit director on John Carter, which takes us back to plain old Brave (or possibly insane). Of course replacing directors is almost a tradition at Pixar, with this now the fifth time it's happened, and usually the contradictory approach somehow works. On this occasion, however, it's not quite as effective since the competing visions fail to marry quite so seamlessly.

The story follows Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald of Trainspotting and Boardwalk Empire fame) as a princess in training, though her attention and discipline run as wild as her Rebekah Brooks locks. She favours riding over reading, archery over tapestry and mischief over miss congeniality - all to the amusement of her father King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and the chagrin of her Queen mother Elinor (Emma Thompson). Tensions come to a head when it's announced three eligible clansmen will be competing for her hand in marriage, and in defiance of her mother she shuns tradition and sends the kingdom into turmoil.

It's no surprise the 'animatography' in Brave is exquisite. Pixar's ability to imbue its characters with rich emotions, even when they're inanimate, is as impressive as it is now assumed, and the opening shots of the highland vistas are so photorealistic they could easily be mistaken for the opening shots of Prometheus.

Ultimately Brave is probably Pixar's worst film to date. However, anything by Pixar will still be better than most of the other films that have (or will) come out this year. That's because the teams at its San Francisco-based headquarters know their story structure, character arcs and emotional triggers better than most, as well as how to make an audience laugh. And laugh you most certainly will.

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