Animation – USA / European Première
So, the big question: does Pixar’s first bona fide, tailor made Scottish adventure live up to expectation? Though there are a few chinks in its armour, there’s no Mel Gibson in sight as Brave unearths a sprawling Highlands magic which doesn’t trivialise or cheapen the setting; instead it steeps Scotland in the kind of grand, highly moral storytelling we’ve come to expect from Pixar. They’ve kept to old-fashioned fairy-tale, with young wee Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) wrestling against betrothal tradition to prove she can be the master of her own destiny. Tales of fate, honour and of course Brave-ry ensue in a kilts-infested, Celtic-scored, flash-yer-fanny crusade.
It’s worth stating that Brave doesn’t signal a huge leap forward in either animation or filmmaking. There are moments of studio oversight and Scots cliché, including characteristic (albeit life-affirming) jigs, skips and folkloric messages. Its sense of fabular fun is also a fair step behind its DreamWorks counterpart, How to Train Your Dragon. But you’d have to be made of stone not to enjoy Brave. It treats Highlands life with a kind of joyousness, itself weighing up hoary traditions which have come in contact with fresh, contemporary customs. It’s a new vs. old romance about transformation and discovery, certainly mirroring a step towards potential independence for Scotland in the future.
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