Brave was definitely not what I expected. Though I had heard it was one of the first Disney/Pixar movies where a strong heroine determines her own fate, rather than waiting around for a prince to rescue her, the film veers off-topic about midway through the movie and soon becomes unrecognizable from the initial plot.

Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald, No Country for Old Men), pronounced "MEH-reh-dah," is an unusual princess. She lives with her family in Scotland - her mother, the Queen, and father, the King, and her three adorable, but often mischievous, triplet brothers. Merida likes to practice archery in her free time, so when suitors from the other Scottish clans attempt to prove their worth to her, she decides on archery as the game of choice. Merida decides that since she is a first-born, she too can compete for her own hand in marriage - her freedom. Her mother (voiced by Emma Thompson, Men in Black 3), however, strongly disagrees with this, and tells Merida that she must follow tradition.

This upsets the teenaged Merida, who isn't ready to have a husband, and she rides off into the woods in a huff. She runs into a witch there (voiced by Julie Walters, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), and gets her to make her a spell to give to her mother so that Merida can change her fate. It changes her fate, all right, but not in the way she thinks it will: it turns her mother - SPOILER - into a bear. Her father (voiced by Billy Connolly, Gulliver's Travels) has one "peg leg" due to an incident with a bear when Merida was a little girl, and when he sees a bear in the castle he and the other Scottish clans try to attack it; Merida must then hide the bear (her mother) until she can find an antidote to the spell and get her "real" mother back.

The beginning of Brave started off great, as we see lush Scottish landscapes and listen to beautiful music. Merida's brothers, the triplets, provide some needed comic relief, and we see how she often disagrees with her parents' opinions, especially when it comes to tradition. After her mother turns into a bear, though, the story loses its momentum. I was thinking something like "Okay, her mother's a bear - now what?" but nothing really happened after that. I guess you could say the moral of the story is that it takes an adventure to really reconnect with your loved ones, or something like that, but the film was very vague about this - which is interesting, because normally in kids' movies there are clear "morals" involved.

Maybe see this film, and if you do, don't see it in 3D - the beginning was very shaky and it didn't really add much to the movie. I read in another review that this is a Pixar film trying to be more like a Disney film, since Merida is a princess, and I agree with that; I felt like Merida's storyline could have been expanded so much more than it was in the movie. Parents of younger children should be aware that although it's rated PG (a bit shocking for a Pixar film, actually), there are also some scary parts involving bears - which in 3D made it even scarier. Overall I would recommend waiting for Brave to be released on DVD, or perhaps catching it at a matinee on a rainy day.

Brave is in theaters today, June 22nd, and is rated PG with a runtime of 93 minutes. 3 stars out of 5.

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