First a mini review: La Luna
LA LUNA is the seven minute short that precedes Brave. It is a charming story about the newest member of a family finding his own way of doing things between his father's methods and his grandfather's. In the vein of "How the Zebra Got Its Stripes" this is a fun and clever imagining of how the mood goes from full to crescent. It's full of creative visual gags and expressive characters who's facial expressions and body language say everything you need to know despite the obnoxious "Sims" like mumble language they speak to each other. When you go see Brave, make sure you arrive on time to catch it.
And Now: The Main Attraction
Brave is the most Disneyesque flick to come out of Pixar. It is the story of a princess who grows up at odds with the expectations and traditions of her parents, primarily her mother, and of the Scottish clan she is part of. While most of the characters are human, there are talking animals, witches, bears who walk upright, magic and the sort of whimsical music that recalls memories of Disney classics like Cinderella, Snow White and The Sword in the Stone.
Yet, unlike other animated send ups of these files from the Disney Vaults, such as Shrek and Tangled, Brave lives right along side the older films. It's an original fairy tail that creates its own world and mythology. It stands on the shoulders of its older siblings without being overly directly referential. The only thing that really sets this film apart from its roots is the technology behind it. The backgrounds are detailed and lush. The character animation is impeccable; their design totally unique. The lighting, "camera" work, and craft are all top notch.
It should be noted that this is Pixar's first movie with a female protagonist, which in retrospect seems downright shameful. For a company that puts together such touching, positive, and socially aware stories, the fact this this is a first is shocking. However, Brave embraces this designation. The mother/daughter relationship is the driving force of the movie, both in terms of plot and emotional arcs. I loved the pitting of the strong women, often with opposing view points, against each other. Often I sided with the daughter (I'm a sucker for stories about children who don't get the respect they deserve just because they are younger), but in the end, you see things from the mother's perspective as well and in turn see the importance of finding an equilibrium between view points - a very important lesson for kids and adults alike.
Brave has something for everyone. Children probably won't catch that one of the Scottish clans are the Macguffin's and that they, in fact, serve as a MacGuffin within the plot. However, children will get the visual gag of one of the Scottish clans raising their kilts at another. Oh those wily Scotts and the Scotty puns and buns! Then there are the action sequences that are spectacular. Everyone will have a blast with those.
Pixar packs a lot into an hour and a half. The story is tight, the voice acting is spot on and imagery is drool-worthy. This is definitely one to check out!