1) The princess’ mother is not dead or a witch.
2) There is no adulation or song dedicated to the princess’ beauty.
3) The movie doesn’t have a ‘wedding’ as its happy ending.
In a nutshell, Merida is a spirited teenage princess who resists her mother’s patient attempts to teach her to act more like a ‘lady.’ The time has come for Merida to choose a suitor and she says “I’m just not ready.” Feeling trapped, Merida takes matters into her own hands and makes a series of choices to try to change the course of ‘fate’.
She is defiant, frustrated and amazing – literally busting out of her tight-fitting gown to show the world that she wants a different life than her mom’s. Merida’s choices, however, prove to not be well thought-out and set off a series of unfortunate events that ultimately result in life-threatening situations. (Yep sounds like a teenager!) .
The true test of Merida and her parents’ courage and bravery is how they respond.
There is a love story at the heart of this movie, but not between Merida and a boy. It is the first love story any human knows – that between mother and child. A real relationship between a mother and teenage daughter is rare on the big screen and is so wonderful and refreshing to see. Any mother and daughter who have traversed the teenage years together (or will in the future) will see themselves both in the sweet interactions and challenging attempts at communication.
Over the course of the movie, mother and daughter each have the opportunity to walk in the other’s shoes, so to speak, and develop empathy. What they do with that empathy result in perhaps the BRAVEST actions of the movie: The queen gives permission to Merida to break away from cultural tradition, and Merida becomes willing to listen and have a closer relationship with her mom. This culminates in the iconic transformation moment at the end of the movie (think: when the Beast turns back into a man in Beauty and the Beast) but with an awesome twist.
Like any reviewer, I can’t help but mention what Merida looks like. She has stunning curly, red, untamed hair and blue eyes. A main draw of the movie is that her looks are not mentioned, judged, or linked at all to her virtue or worth. (Can you think of another Disney movie in which that’s true?) Also, I look more like Merida than any of the other Disney princesses. Perhaps if I had a Merida in my youth, I would have spent more time embracing my crazy curly hair rather than wishing it away.
Other reviewers have said this movie doesn’t live up to Pixar’s reputation for plot, story line or creativity. I beg to differ.
In my opinion, the plot is very engaging and what it may lack in cleverness and consistency, it makes up for in its examination of relationship and dialogue. It is on the scary side and has a PG rating, but I would argue it’s no scarier than the scariest scenes in Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.
Clearly, I loved this movie.
I relished watching it with my 4-year-old daughter in my lap. She still fits perfectly in the space under my chin. Soon, she’ll be too big to fit in my lap, and too soon after that, she’ll be like Merida, trying to bravely distinguish herself from me and become her own independent person. Thanks to Brave, we have a movie we can enjoy to give us a little boost of hope that we can become separate yet still remain close…. hopefully without witches, poison and bears involved!