Reviewed by: Laura Busch
FEMINIST WORLDVIEW—What does the Bible say about feminism and women’s lib?
Is it better to follow your heart, or do what is right?
How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer
Are we living in a moral Stone Age? Answer
humility versus pride
bravery, courage, self-sacrifice
forgiveness of others
Kelly Macdonald … Merida (voice)
Billy Connolly … Fergus (voice)
Emma Thompson … Elinor (voice)
Julie Walters … The Witch (voice)
Robbie Coltrane … Lord Dingwall (voice)
Kevin McKidd … Lord MacGuffin/Young MacGuffin (voice)
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Steve Purcell (co-director)
Pixar Animation Studios
Walt Disney Pictures
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|Distributor||Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures|
“Change your fate.”
Disney Pixar’s newest heroine, Princess Merida (Kelly McDonald) has a spirit that is as fiery as her unruly red hair. Merida is expected to follow tradition and marry one of the young suitors, who are competing to win her hand in marriage. Her mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson) has spent years preparing Merida to take on her role as a princess and a lady. But the headstrong young Merida wants to choose her own path in life. Much to her mother’s dismay, Merida bucks tradition and shoots for her own hand in marriage, defeating her potential suitors in the archery competition. The last thing Merida wants is to become like her mother, a princess and a bride. After an ugly argument with her mother, Merida’s overwhelming desire to change her fate leads her to seek help from a witch. Merida asks the witch to sell her a spell that will cause her mother to change her mind about her inevitable betrothal. The witch grants Merida’s wish and casts a spell that will cause her mother to change, but the spell does not turn out as Merida expected, and unleashes a beastly curse on her mother. Merida and her mother must work together to reverse the beastly spell before it becomes permanent.
It’s no surprise that Pixar has produced a classic fairytale of its own. “Brave” is set in the beautiful backdrop of medieval Scotland. The Scottish highlands are brought to life by vivid and realistic animation and a lively soundtrack of bagpipe music composed by Patrick Doyle. “Brave” is Pixar’s first fairytale, and it is not like the studio’s previous films, which are more lightweight and colorful in their aesthetic, rather “Brave” stands on its own as an engaging, heartfelt, and often humorous fairytale.
Merida and her mother face many of the same struggles and conflicts that mothers and daughters face every day. “Brave” does a good job of portraying the conflict, rebellion, and misunderstandings that arise between teen girls and their mother. These conflicts are handled in an appropriate manner that kids and parents will be able to relate to. Merida is headstrong, rebellious, and wants to make her own decisions, while Elinor is a loving mother who wants to do all she can to prepare her daughter for what she feels is the best path for her. Merida feels misunderstood, and Elinor becomes frustrated with her rebellious daughter. We see the negative consequences of Merida’s rebellion throughout the movie, while positive themes of love and forgiveness shine through in this tale.
This mother and daughter pair embark on a heartwarming and often humorous journey as they must work together to break the beastly spell that has been cast on Elinor. The witch tells them that the only way they can break the spell is for them to “mend the bond which pride has broken.”
The spiritual themes of fate and destiny are at the heart of this fairytale, and while theses themes are not dealt with from the Christian worldview, this movie could serve as an excellent conversation starter for parents to discuss God’s will with their children and help their kids understand that God has a wonderful plan for each of our lives. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” —Jeremiah 29:11.
Throughout the movie, Merida and Elinor grow as people and mend their strained relationship. Merida apologizes to her mother and learns from her mistakes. Elinor comes to better understand her spirited tomboy of a daughter, and Merida blossoms into a mature young woman, who now has a newfound respect and appreciation for all of the ideals that her mother has tried to instill in her. Ultimately, we see a very tender and heartfelt bond between a mother and daughter whose love for each other grow even deeper.
The importance of family is another theme that is present, and it is refreshing to see a positive portrayal of a nuclear family with both a mom and a dad, who love each and their children.
“Brave” has a more dark and more mature tone than its Pixar predecessors. Like most fairytales, magic plays an integral role in “Brave”’s central plot. The large role that magic plays in this story may be of concern to some parents. The witch, who casts the spell on Merida’s mother, stirs a bubbling cauldron, and the central themes of fate and destiny are embodied in glowing mystical apparitions known as ‘will-o’-the-wisps. Elinor tells Merida that the “wisps lead you to your fate.” These glowing wisps appear to Merida several times in the movie and light a path for her to follow. Merida looks to the wisps for direction, not God, but the scenes with the wisps could provide a good teaching moment for Christian parents to remind their kids that they should look to God and His Word for direction. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” —Psalm 119:105.
As far as violence is concerned, there is a moderate amount—a fast paced chase or two, slapping, hitting, etc. Some of the violence is more slapstick, while other moments are more intense. For example, an angry mob of men ride off into the wilderness with their weapons to pursue a bear. As mentioned above, this film has a darker tone than other Pixar movies, therefore parents should know that there are some scenes that may be scary for younger children. For example, the scenes with the witch are a bit intense, and she is scary looking.
Other content that may be of concern to parents includes a scene where one of the men lifts up the back of his kilt to the other men and tells them, “feast your eyes.” In another scene, the men chase a bear to the top of the castle roof and get locked up there. It is implied that they take off their kilts and then tie them together to scale down the building. We see their bare bottoms from behind for a couple of seconds as they walk away from the castle. Merida’s younger triplet brothers run wild about the castle causing all sorts of trouble, with seemingly no consequence.
Overall, “Brave” is a charming fairytale that tells a warm and heartfelt mother-daughter story. Its emphasis on mother-daughter relationships and the story’s emphasis on the theme of destiny both make for good conversation starters about parent-child relationships and God’s will, therefore making “Brave” a good choice for a family movie night.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.