Lessons Learned Be: BraveReleased: June 22, 2012
Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Writers: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Kelly Macdonald as Merida
Billy Connolly as Fergus
Emma Thompson as Elinor
Synopsis from IMDB:
Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.
Princess Merida is your typical teenager, she's defiant and prefers to be doing what she wants; which makes her constantly butt heads with her mother. This conflict of course is the main plot point of the whole movie. Her mother, Queen Elinor spends her days trying to prepare her to be the future Queen by giving her etiquette lessons, teaching her practical if not typical girl skills like eloquent speech making, sewing and all while wearing proper court clothing. What Merida would prefer to do is run wild with her fiery hair blowing in the wind and practicing her archery skills - all of which her father fully supports. But when the day comes for her to use all the skills that her mother has taught her to seal a deal to ensure the safety of her kingdom, she decides to use her archery skill set instead - throwing the kingdom into imminent chaos.
From the previews this movie looked like it'd be a fun time. Plus it's Pixar and really it's hard for Pixar to go wrong. The plot follows your typical teenage rebellious phase, but set in the highlands of 10th century Scotland. So when Merida disagrees with her mother's plan for her, she goes off in search of her own solution to change her fate. But it has very unexpected results. True to Disney fashion - something pretty horrible happens to the mother figure (think about it: they're usually not in the picture, evil, or something happens to them) and the rest of the story is a quest to change her fate yet again, queue bonding moments and epic battles.
I loved Merida's independent streak, drive to do boyish things and take control of her life. But because it is 10th Century Scotland, girls were expected to do other things at that time. So on one hand it's "you go girl!" and on the other you just know this isn't going to go down a very good path. But it's a time proven way to effectively run your plot, even if it's cliche. Merida initially is very brash and just wants the easiest solution possible - so bring in the magical element, the quick fix for everything! Only there's a very fine print with using magic, and it's a price she wasn't expecting to pay.
Her mother just wants to do what's best for the kingdom. She definitely wears the pants (under her skirt of course) of the relationship with her husband. But instead of ruling with brute force she definitely carries an air of authority that isn't to be trifled with. She's got that stern look that immediately silences a rowdy room and she isn't afraid to drag you off by your ear kind of approach. I really did like her, it's not like she was an unreasonable mother - but that's just because I'm looking at this as an adult reflecting on the lessons, as a kid I'd be "THIS IS SOO UNFAIR!! You're ruining my life!!!" in the whiniest voice possible.
Her dad, King Fergus was especially awesome. What he's used to dealing with is weapons and war. But really he's a big softy that loves his kids, and loves recalling epic adventures over a mug of mead. He's one part of the comic relief in when he plays the devil's advocate with his wife when they discuss Merida's incorrigibility and when he inadvertently encourages Merida to do her own thing.
My absolute favorite characters were Merdia's little triplet brothers. While they had no lines, they're the perfectly little mischievous trio that provide the biggest laughs. You can only imagine what kind of trouble three little boys might get into - especially in their quest for sugary treats.
The actors put great inflections and (with most of the cast being Scottish) excellent Scottish brogues with their voice acting, and the animation as per Pixar standards was vivid, detailed and gorgeous renditions of the highlands and deep woods.
While there was an attempt at a sinister villain aspect to the story - I felt that it was really unnecessary, and it was just there for random scares and tensions and as a part of the resolution I wasn't really sure if it was supposed to be a good thing or not (it probably was). The story is pitched that Merida's kick ass archery skills will save the day, but I was really disappointed in the end. You know what saves the day? The Princess lessons that her mom taught her of all things.
The actual ending doesn't seem all that happy and in the bigger picture she really didn't change her fate. It's more like the inevitable has been delayed for the time being.
Overall: 3/5 Cups of Drinkable tea.
It starts out strong, but it starts wavering towards the end. While your kids will undoubtedly enjoy it for the comedic elements and colorful animation, I was just left feeling a bit unfulfilled at the ending. I think I probably just over thought the whole story.