Brave Review
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With 2011’s Cars 2, the typically smart and sophisticated studio took a drive to Shallowville, making some fans wonder whether the studio had finally given in to the pressure to make flashier kids’ movies. Well, they didn’t have to worry—because, with their follow-up, Brave, Pixar’s animation geniuses have returned with their most strikingly beautiful film yet.

Brave takes audiences on a journey to a Scotland of long ago to tell the story of Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), a headstrong young princess with wild red hair and a gift for archery—much to the chagrin of her genteel mother (Emma Thompson). But while Merida has spent her life under her mother’s watchful eye, training to be a proper princess, it never really occurred to her that, one day, she’d have to marry.

When the time comes for the clan leaders’ firstborn sons to compete for her hand, Merida refuses to follow tradition, angering both the clans and her mother. All she wants is the freedom to control her own destiny—but when she turns to a witch for help, she only makes matters worse.

From the opening shots of Brave, it’s clear that Pixar’s animators have once again outdone themselves. In fact, Brave is so gorgeous that it’s almost distracting. As you watch, you might find yourself mesmerized by the spring in Merida’s red curls…or the way the light bounces off a shimmering drop of water…or the texture of a piece of fabric. It’s all so detailed and so lifelike that it’ll take your breath away.

But, of course, there’s so much more to Brave than just its striking animation. There’s also the enchanting Highlands setting, which is filled with wild animals and magical creatures and plenty of other lovable characters. Merida’s trouble-making little brothers provide plenty of comic relief—as do the comical clan leaders and their sons—giving just the right amount of levity and playfulness to an otherwise dramatic adventure.

The story’s focus, meanwhile, is on Merida and her mother, Elinor—two strong and determined women who differ in every other way. While Elinor is prim and proper and tied to tradition, Merida wants nothing more than to do her own thing and make her own decisions—and she doesn’t care whom she offends in the process. The differences between the two cause a rift that will definitely resonate with the grown-ups in the audience. Even if your kids are young enough that they still hang on your every word, it’s sure to remind you of your own teenage years—when you, too, struggled to gain independence from your parents and their way of thinking.

While parents will appreciate the drama of the story, though, kids will still have plenty to keep them entertained (and sometimes even scared out of their little minds). They’ll love the silly characters, and they’ll be thrilled by the action. In fact, the tone of the film is perfect: dramatic but not overemotional, whimsical but not goofy.

In the end, Brave is everything that fans generally expect from Pixar. It’s entertaining and imaginative. It’s smart and thoughtful. And it’s absolutely, positively gorgeous—an animated treat for the whole family.

Blu-ray 3D Review:
The five-disc Blu-ray 3D release of Pixar’s latest stunner, Brave, is both gorgeous and feature-filled. As is often the case, the 3D disc is pretty basic—just the feature itself and the magical short, La Luna (which screened before the film in theaters). But you’ll find plenty of extras on the collection’s pair of Blu-ray discs.

The release includes two short films: La Luna and the all-new short, The Legend of Mordu. And, really, without any games or sing-alongs or other kid-friendly features, those two shorts are about the only extras that will be of interest to younger fans.

The rest of the features are of the behind-the-scenes variety. You’ll find extended scenes and an alternate opening (which offers a fascinating look at the various stages of animation), in addition to features like Fallen Warriors, which shows a montage of finished clips that didn’t make the cut, and Once Upon a Scene, which discusses some of the film’s more than 100 deleted scenes.

For more on the making of Brave, you’ll want to check out features like Merida & Elinor, Brawl in the Hall, Wonder Moss, The Tapestry, and so many others. These extras go into detail about various parts of the project—things like character design and the mathematics involved in animation.

Or, for a little more on the Pixar lifestyle, check out Clan Pixar, which offers just a peek into the world of Pixar, where the team members work hard, play hard, and eat haggis.

While the extras on the Brave Blu-ray 3D release won’t really appeal to kids, grown-up fans—especially those who are intrigued by the animation process—will want to explore the special features menu. I recommend starting on the main disc, with Clan Pixar and Brave Old World (in which crew members find inspiration on a trip to Scotland) before moving on to making-of features like Dirty Hairy People and It Is English…Sort Of on the bonus disc.

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