So I finally saw “Brave”, another of Disney’s attempts at changing up their usual formula for their movies. I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t like it; there’s no random musical numbers, and while there is some slapstick humor, the tone is somewhat darker than a Disney children’s movie usually is. However, I think it had merit, and feel like some of the criticism regarding it misses the point of the movie.
Merida is a princess of the Highland clan Dunbroch. She takes after her father, a wild and noisy brawler, and after he gives her a bow and arrow she prefers shooting and riding to learning court manners from her mother. They exasperate one another, and it all comes to a head when Merida ruins the attempts to marry her off by winning the competition herself. After an explosive argument, she runs off into the forest, where she runs into a witch. Merida asks for a spell to “change” her mother so she won’t be married off, and the witch gives it to her-but not in the way she expected. What follows is Merida’s attempts to repair her mistake while the clans’ tenuous ties start loosening.
To be fair, her poor mother is surrounded by Weasleys.
I think what made this film less popular than some of the other recent ones was the self-conscious attempt at making a feminist film. It’s a bit clunky, but at the same time the story itself is a moving one. Merida is a flawed heroine but one that learns her lesson without being completely altered at the end. She learns that she doesn’t have to flout all social conventions in order to be herself; if anything, like the movie her attempts at being different from her mother seemed self-conscious. At the end she has not lost her spirit or her interests, but she has become more comfortable with herself and with those different from her. Nothing is perfect; the movie is set in a time where Merida will most likely have to marry; but the concession to let her marry when she’s comfortable with the idea is practically a revolution.
It was also nice to see a more realistic character style. I followed the discussions on curly hair forums when Merida was first introduced, and the animators made the hair very realistic. (You can see different types of curls in her hair, which is normal-no one with naturally curly hair is going to have uniform curls unless they use curlers or a curling iron.) She also looks like a fifteen or sixteen year old. Her proportions are not stylized, and she doesn’t look like she’s wearing makeup, which so many heroines, regardless of time period or social class, do.
On the other hand, her hair does have the magical ability to always stay out of her face at convenient moments. If only mine did the same...
One of the biggest criticisms I read about the film is that the men are all useless buffoons. First off, I refuse to believe that putting a bunch of hot-tempered Scotsmen in the same room will not end in hilarity. Secondly, while Fergus is often used for comedy relief, he also has moments of a blunt sort of wisdom, and he really is very protective of his family. In fact, no one character is ever wholly good or bad. They all have their problems, but they all come together in the end.
So, was it a good movie? Yes. Not the best Disney movie I’ve seen, but it had a refreshing premise and some fun characters. Also, the Scottish music used in the movie was amazing.