Image © Disney.
Though the Disney name comes first on the credits, there are many elements of this film that signal Pixar beyond the animation style. Yes, it’s another story about a princess, but beyond that it often diverges from the Disney model. Like other recent Disney heroines, Merida is feisty and talented, and in conflict with her parents over romance and her place in the world of Celtic/Gaelic Scotland. Merida’s talent happens to be archery, and she lives for the rare days when she can escape castle life and ride her giant horse through the forest shooting at targets and enjoying nature. Her parents, especially her mother, have other ideas: they’ve invited the three other clans they’re allied with to present candidates for Merida’s hand in marriage. When the clans and candidates show up, it’s clear there’s no Prince Charming among them, and Merida bests them all in a test of bowmanship, then flees into the forest to escape the whole idea of suitors and marriage.
All that can be seen in the film’s trailers, so I don’t think I’m giving anything away. What happens next is surprising, and not very Disneyish. One of the things I liked best about this film was that it did keep me guessing as to what would happen next, and when Merida gets herself and her family into deep trouble, I had no idea until near the end how they would get out of it.
Another thing that I liked was the music for the film, the original orchestral score by Patrick Doyle, and several songs NOT sung by the characters. I’m uncertain if he wrote those as well, but I saw no other song credits, so I’m guessing he did. Yes, there’s a bit of singing by the mother, but it’s not Disney Musical singing.
There are animals in the film, but they don’t talk, with one brief, humorous exception. Actually, some of the human characters have little or nothing to say as well, including Merida’s three young brothers, though they’re quite entertaining anyway. Merida and her parents have a lot to say, and that keeps the story grounded in family, another thing I liked.
The animation is terrific, as you might expect. I saw it in 2D, by the way, and don’t feel I missed anything. It takes time to establish setting and atmosphere, and though there are some frenetic parts, in general it does not feel as crammed with movement as some other recent films I’ve seen. It has atmosphere.
The film is often quite funny, but the characters all take themselves seriously, as they should, allowing the humor to flow from events, characters, and dialogue rather than jokes, mugging and buffoonery, though there is a helping of visual pratfall and prank humor, mainly from the three brothers..
In all, I loved the film, can’t think of a thing I didn’t like, really. Well done, all, and warm smiles for all the female members of the crew, from writer/co-director Brenda Chapman right through the effects and digital artists.