Brave  – Merida, princess of the Scottish clan Dunbroch, isn’t interested in performing the typical ladylike duties her mother wants her to, instead, she is far more inclined towards more ‘masculine’ activities. When the day arrives for her to pick a suiter, her distaste for the occasion results in an argument with her mother, causing Merida to run away and meet a witch who gives her a spell that turns her mother into a bear. With only 2 days to return her back to normal or the spell becomes permanent, Merida faces a few home truths as she does all she can to save her mother.

Brave (2012) – Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman; Co-Director: Chris Purcell

Is Brave appropriate for kids

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Rating: PG

Running Length: 93 mins

Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson

Genre: Animated

‘BRAVE’ REVIEW

Pixar is no stranger to accolades and awards so winning the Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Animated Feature Film for ‘Brave’ was unsurprising. The incredible animation style that they are famous for was completely rewritten to accomplish even more realistic, beautiful and complex visuals than ever before. Setting the story in Medieval Scotland was an unusual choice when their other movies have had little focus on the where the characters live (even in Ratatouille, Paris was merely a backdrop and not a central plot point) so having a story steeped in history and folklore was an unexpected move. ‘Brave’ is also the first time Pixar gave us a female led tale with Merida: the clan princess who fights against her apparent destiny as a wife and mother, preferring instead a life of adventure, full of weapons and more masculine pursuits.

Merida’s motivations to avoid being married off to a stranger for political reasons are perfectly understandable and one that audiences can get behind. Unfortunately while Merida is strong-willed and determined, her attitude towards her mother, Elinor, makes her appear petulant, especially as her mother genuinely wants what’s best for her and never really gets the opportunity to explain her reasons to her daughter before getting shut down each time. As Merida’s selfish actions cause devastating consequences for her mother, it is a shame that Elinor doesn’t get a scene to fully speak of her younger days and experiences so that Merida can understand her mother’s motives. It’s the slightly jarring contrast between modern sensibilities and the realities of the time. However, this is a minor quibble in an otherwise great story that shows just how strong girls and women can be, even when everyone around them tells them that they are weak.

‘Brave’ highlights Pixar’s versatility and setting a movie in a much more realistic world helps ground their other tales, even if they are about talking cars and monsters! Merida is a princess to root for and definitely one for young girls to look up to and, with more kids’ movies supporting strong female leads, the official recognition and popularity of Merida’s strength of character will encourage others to follow suit.

IS ‘BRAVE’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

In the opening scene, a huge bear attacks a family who are enjoying an afternoon together. The father is a warrior and his men soon come to his aid; his wife and child quickly move to safety. The men surround the bear and a vicious fight begins. The camera focuses on the bear’s face as it roars and lunges at the father. Many years later, the father walks around with a false leg which is a consequence of his fight with the bear. This bear is a recurring ‘character’ throughout the movie and is called Mor’du. Its physical description is ‘his face scarred with one dead eye’ and it is extremely aggressive.

A large fight breaks out between several clans. They all have weapons but none use them to kill. It is more a brawl with punches, kicks and hitting people with the blunt ends of their weapons. This fight is mostly comical and slapstick in nature but some kids could be sensitive to some of the fighting, especially as it continues for a few minutes.

A man turns his back on two others, bends over and lifts his kilt saying ‘feast your eyes!’, the other men cry out in disgust.

After an argument with her mother, Merida runs away on her horse and comes across an ancient stone circle. The scene becomes ominous with minimal music, Merida is unsure of what to do and her horse refuses to go any further. Merida then follows a series of strange blue lights which beckon her to follow, they sigh and hiss gently before disappearing. This lasts for around two minutes and is quite spooky. Afterwards, Merida finds a witch living in a cottage. When she begins her spell, she throws numerous things into her cauldron. The lighting of the scene is dark with light shining on the witches face, the spell gets a little intense but only lasts around thirty seconds and isn’t too frightening.

When Merida persuades her mother, Elinor, to eat a cake which has been bewitched, Elinor soon becomes very unwell. Merida can see her mother’s discomfort but is uncaring for her wellbeing, only asking repeatedly if she has changed her mind. After a couple of minutes, Elinor collapses to the floor and when she stands up, she has transformed into a bear; once she realises what has happened she becomes extremely distressed, throwing herself around a room, destroying and knocking over furniture.

Merida and Elinor who is now a bear spend some time together, having fun and coming to terms with what has happened. Suddenly, Elinor walks away from Merida into the woods. Merida doesn’t understand why so she follows, calling to her mother. When Elinor turns around, she becomes aggressive and almost kills Merida before realising and stops. This indicates that her humanity is slipping away and that it won’t be long until she becomes a bear in mind as well as body.

When searching ruins of an old castle, Merida looks inside a darkened room. Suddenly the bear, Mor’du, fiercely attacks her, he is relentless and she struggles to get away from him. This moment is short but unexpected and intense with a jump scare and could be frightening for younger children.

When in their own castle, Elinor and Merida attract attention, the King (Elinor’s beloved husband) doesn’t realise that the bear is his wife and attempts to kill her. He locks Merida in her room and she desperately tries to get out to save Elinor. She screams after her mother in distress and collapses to the floor, sobbing once she knows she can’t get out to help.

A maid who works in the castle has large breasts and her outfit shows a lot of cleavage. When Merida is locked in her room, she is entrusted with the key and, for safekeeping, she hides it between her breasts. When other characters chase her to get the key, one jumps on her from above and the camera zooms in on her breasts (this is done for comedy and is not sexual).

Mor’du attacks Merida; he stands tall above her then opens his mouth around her head causing her to whimper in fear. Elinor then attacks Mor-du and a vicious fight ensues. Although she is no match for him, she keeps fighting. Mor’du is eventually stopped but the time of the spell is up, causing her to fully transform into the bear. Merida is distraught and sobs openly for a couple of minutes, however all is not lost.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT – IS ‘BRAVE’ FOR KIDS?

‘Brave’ was a change in direction from Pixar to a more realistic story with a strong female lead and the gamble they took paid off. The story may be set in Medieval Scotland but it’s a tale that still resonates with families today and therefore is as relevant as any modern-day story of family politics. Due to some scary scenes with Mor’du the bear, we recommend this movie for kids aged 6 and over.

  • Violence: 2/5
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5
  • Fear Factor: 2/5
  • Sexual Content: 1/5 (some nudity, toddlers are seen naked and after using their kilts to escape a room high in a castle, men walk around briefly with naked bottoms on display)
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 0/5
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of arranged marriage, destiny, defying your parents, being careful of what you wish for, making your own decisions, refusing a life you are unhappy with, familial love and accepting your children’s choices.

Words by Laura Record

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