Duration: 100 mins
With Pixar recently announcing sequels to Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and Toy Story, there were fears that originality was running dry, but their thirteenth and latest feature, Brave, shows that flare hasn't dried up just yet.
A story involving princesses, kings, castles, witches, spells and bears is anything but the norm for the animation giants, and turns out to be a refreshing change, especially with its woven references to many a fairytale: it shares a sensibility with Shrek for this very reason. Initially, it threatens to drift off into mundane territory a la Cars, but thankfully the strong, entertaining plot, keeps it afloat, allowing it to shine.
Whilst it may suffer from predictable plotting, the whimsy, funny and entertaining elements develop into an engaging and likeable fantasy set in Scotland. Princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald) defies her father, the King (Billy Connolly), and her destiny to marry one of three suitors as per the kingdom's custom, which forms the basis of the film.
As with each Pixar entry, the animation and attention to detail is sublime. Subtleties such as Merida's thick, auburn locks as well as various animal textures impress, but the most breathtaking visuals are perhaps the appearance of water -- one scene in particular springs to mind. It's this steady progression over the years -- as well as the consistency of their well-written scripts -- that keep Pixar one step ahead of the competition. Unlike Aardman's Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, which boasted style over substance, Brave achieves satisfaction on both levels and actually gains momentum and strength as it progresses towards its finale.
The conclusion is both tidy and resolute -- qualities you'd expect for both studio and genre. It remains perfectly paced throughout with its humorous level of wit and intellect that transcends younger and older audiences alike. It boasts a subtle comedic presence, specifically its approach to animals conveying thought without the ability of speech -- think along the lines of the mute genius of WALL-E as a guide.
Adhering to current trends, the film has been converted into 3D, and, as per a minority of its counterparts, does a credible job in creating depth of field. It's effective as an added extra, but in the context of the filmmaking it remains gimmickry is unnecessary.
Brave offers up a fairytale style story previously unexplored by Pixar. It works, and even though it doesn't quite capture the magical highs of Up or WALL-E, it still succeeds as a solid and hugely enjoyable film that performs well and looks the part, too.