ďThere are those who say fate is something beyond our command. That destiny is not our own, but I know better. Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it.Ē
- Princess Merida
Hereís what I wrote about this one in my original theatrical review:
ďBrave is beautiful. Literally so, in regards to the animation, but considering the film is sprung forth from the digital animation wizards of Pixar this is hardly a surprise. But it is also figuratively beautiful, the filmís simple, delicate story a peon to mother-daughter relations that is as heartfelt as it is genuine. Even with being set in the middle of the Scottish Highlands in an unspecified yesteryear where magic and myth still reign, the movie canít help but speak to the here and now, celebrating a universal truth about family, life and love virtually guaranteed to melt the most hardened heart and bring soft tears to the most cynical of eyes.
At the same time, the movie is definitely not the rip-roaring adventure spectacle its trailers and teasers have led audiences to believe. While the heroine, whip-smart teenage Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), is an independent firebrand handy with a bow, while there is a gigantic bear stalking the Highlands sniffing around for fresh blood, overall the movie isnít all that concerned with getting the pulse racing or showcasing impossible bits of daring-do.
Instead, the filmís cadre of writers, working from an original story by Brenda Chapman (Cars, Beauty and the Beast), whom it should be noted was also the film's original director but ended up being asked to leave the production, have crafted a simplistic tale of a young girl trying to understand the mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), whom she sees as trying to keep her from being her own woman. The pair butt heads, get into arguments and completely misunderstand one another, a universal anthem as far as family relationships are concerned the world over. While what they say might not be original, while how they react is hardly new, the way they do it is surprisingly blunt and rings with heartfelt authenticity, making the more fantastical bits of the scenario all the more engaging because of it.
The basic plot concerns Queen Elinor finagling her husband King Fergus (Billy Connolly) into bringing together all of Scotlandís four major clans in hopes of finding a suitable suitor for their daughter, much to Meridaís consternation. One thing leads to another, the princess discovering a flaw in the rules outlining her potential betrothal allowing her to circumvent the proceedings, inadvertently putting her fatherís rule in jeopardy. Worse, she has a run-in with a seemingly kind witch (Julie Walters) with a bizarre affinity for Black Bears, a poorly worded wish making communication between her and her mother a borderline impossibility.
And thatís it. Not a lot else to talk about. Thereís a trio of diminutive red-headed princes with a penchant for tomfoolery that are worth pointing out, while some of the Loony Tunes inspired antics of the Scottish clans is passingly amusing, but as far as major plots are concerned thereís not a lot to talk about. This movie is about Merida and Elinor, about how they learn to talk to one another, learn from their mutual mistakes and strengthen their familial bond in the process. Thatís it. Nothing more. And, personally, Iím perfectly okay with that.
It is thin, I cannot make claims otherwise, but Iím not one to think thatís anything close to a problem when the storytelling is as confident and as self-assured as it is here. I could relate to both Merida and to Elinor, could see myself in both of their shoes, and as such when the chaos of the finale struck and the potential for tragedy reared its furry head I was as thunderstruck as any as the tears quietly began to trickle down my cheek.
Cars and Cars 2 aside, weíve become spoiled by Pixar over the years. We expect great animation, thatís a given, but just as equally we expect great narratives that go beyond what we anticipate and take us into territories we never could have fathomed beforehand. Up certainly fits that description, as do WallēE, Ratatouille, Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.
While Brave doesnít set its sights near as high, the truths it speaks to and the emotion that it pours into achieving them are just as wondrous as any of the achievements made by any of those aforementioned Pixar classics. This movie is as magical as it is intimate, as mysterious as it is personal, the final moments achieving a beatific commonality that speaks to the children we fantasize we once were, the adolescent weíre embarrassed we wish weíd been and the adults we imagine weíre capable of becoming. It is, in a word, beautiful, and I can think of no better summation to this review than to leave things at that.Ē
Brave isnít the best film Pixar has ever made, thereís no debate on that front. At the same time, it is still a beautiful textured, gloriously life-affirming marvel thatís just about perfect for viewers of any age. It holds up wonderfully at home, and I doubt it is a film I could grow tired of even if I wanted to try.
Brave is presented on a dual-layer 50GB 3DBlu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.39:1/1080p transfer. It is also presented on a standard 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.39:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack as well as a plethora of other audio (mostly French and Spanish) tracks and features optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include:
∑ Audio Commentary with director Mark Andrews, co-director Steve Purcell, story supervisor Brian Larsen and editor Nick Smith
∑ Short Films
i. La Luna
ii. The Legend of Mor'Du
∑ Behind the Scenes
i. Brave Old World
ii. Merida & Elinor
iv. Brawl in the Hall
v. Wonder Moss
vii. Clan Pixar
viii. Once Upon a Scene
∑ Extended Scenes
∑ Promotional Pieces
i. Feast Your Eyes Montage (Wee Bits of Animation)
iii. Clan Dun Broch
v. Flying Guts Theater
∑ Fergus & Mor'Du: An Alternate Opening
∑ Fallen Warriors
∑ Dirty Hairy People
∑ Itís EnglishÖ Sort Of
∑ The Tapestry
∑ Art Galleries
Like virtually all Pixar/Disney Blu-ray releases, this one is overflowing with special features, not the least of which are the eight extensive behind-the-scenes featurettes that dive into almost every aspect of the filmís production. Itís a lot to wade through, true, but well worth the effort, while the included short films, especially the delightful La Luna, are as magical as ever.
I know it isnít great Pixar, but Brave is still pretty darn good, and itís virtually assured kids of all ages are going to adore it. Disneyís Blu-ray release borders on perfection, and as holiday stocking stuffers go this is one hi-def collection guaranteed to bring smiles to whomever unwraps it.