From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
“Brave Ultimate Collector’s Edition”
The animation wizards at Pixar take some courageous risks with “Brave,” the renowned studio’s first foray into the sort of magical princess adventures that have long been its parent company Disney’s stock in trade.
While it’s still a shame it took 13 features for Pixar to finally spotlight a female protagonist, the Oscar-winning computer-animation gurus deserve kudos for creating a groundbreaking, emotionally resonant fairy tale that strips the timeworn storytelling style of some of its more troublesome tropes, including the idea that a princess must have a dead mother and a prince charming.
Perhaps the most beautiful of Pixar’s consistently eye-popping films, “Brave” is set in the lovely and mystical wilds of ancient Scotland and centers on Princess Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald), an impetuous, headstrong teenager with an untamed mane of stunningly rendered flame-hued locks, a jaw-dropping talent with a bow and arrow and no interest at all in following her prim and precise mother Queen Elinor’s (Emma Thompson) endless rules of what constitutes proper princess behavior. Merida is a daddy’s girl through and through, with nothing but love for her jolly warrior-king father Fergus (Billy Connolly) and little respect for her mother, although the queen is the diplomatic mind who keeps peace between their family and the other three clans that dwell in their corner of the Highlands.
When Elinor decrees that Merida must marry one of the firstborn sons from the other clans’ first families and that an archery contest will decide the lass’ future husband, Merida rebels, wins the competition and strikes a bargain with a mysterious witch (Julie Walters) that utterly transforms her mother and their relationship.
Like the spellcaster’s cauldron, “Brave” bubbles over with uproarious humor, strong characters and dazzling visuals, but it’s the film’s authentic exploration of the powerful yet problematic bonds between mothers and daughters as well as its revolutionary notion that fairy tales don’t always have to end in wedding bells that make the movie truly magic.
Bonus features: Along with the Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and digital copies of the movie, the five-disc combo pack is crammed with more treasures than royal dowry, including a dozen making-of featurettes, an alternate opening sequence, three extended scenes, a montage of deleted scenes, audio commentary and interactive still art galleries. Even better, the set comes with two short films, the gorgeously stylized “The Legend of Mordu,” which emulates the style of late, great Disney animator and Oklahoma native Mary Blair in retelling the movie’s fable within the fairy tale, and the poetic preshow short “La Luna,” an Oscar-nominated flight of fancy that ranks among my favorite of Pixar’s acclaimed mini-movies.