In this animated adventure-comedy from Disney-Pixar, a teen-age Scottish princess named Merida (voice of Kelly MacDonald) is a free-spirited outdoorsy sort, happily scaling rocky spires and honing her impressive archery skills. Understandably, she doesn't want to marry any of the three losers her parents (Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly) have arranged as suitors. She reacts impulsively, inadvertently dropping a spell on her family, which she must then undo.
Brave is a pretty good Disney movie, but a rather disappointing Pixar one. Brave's quest-and-grow narrative is predictably padded out with kiddie-movie filler, such as butt jokes, frantic madcap action, a montage set to a cheesy song and animals making funny faces. (While this last bit is plot-driven, I still think having animals make goofy "Whaaat?" noises isn't particularly clever.) Pixar's usual light touch is noticeably absent.
And, it may be due to the film switching directors in midstream — from Brenda Chapman to Mark Andrews — but the tone shifts quite a bit, from broad slapstick and girl-power to family anguish and dark menace. (Smaller kids might be alarmed by some scary scenes.)
On the plus side, Brave does feature a no-apologies female protagonist, and is visually gorgeous, with animation more akin to a hyper-photorealism than a "cartoon." (I don't know which camp, Disney or Pixar, is responsible for the living entity that is Merida's springy mane of curly red hair, but I couldn't stop staring at it.) If Pixar had never existed, this would be a better-than-usual Disney film. But fans of the studio that delivered sublime gems like Finding Nemo and WALL*E should temper their expectations.