Brave: A Tale of Bears, Conflict and Needlework
by Chartreuse 15/8/2012 9.31
Brave opened at my local mutliplex in one of the two big screens to an audience of some two dozen, mostly occupying the premium seats so clearly with expectations of the extra outlay being worth the comfort and optimum viewing position.
The engagement with the story by the boys in auditorium indicated that, although there is clear evidence of girl power, they did not regard it as a chickflick. Regardless of the medieval setting, the heroine is a modern, bow-and-arrow wielding, hard-riding, spirited, teen red-head whose wild mane is a tribute to CGI.
Brave clan chieftain Fergus loses a leg to fearsome bear Mor'du while protecting his queen, Elinor, and little daughter, Princess Merida. Fergus dines off the story thereafter, living in expectation of revenge one way or the other. The years pass in a collage of princess diaries of days spent being groomed by the queen for a royal wife-time of decorum, tapestry, and diplomacy, interspersed with solo gallops into freedom across the picturesque Scottish highlands, archery, climbing and lapses into ladetteishness.
The uneasy truce between Merida's desire for liberty and the obligations imposed by her birth is tested when princes from the three allied clans arrive to sue for her hand. At the moment of truth, conflict violently erupts between Merida and her mother and the clan alliance is under threat. The princess flees into the unknown depths of the forest and stumbles upon a circle of standing stones. From there, supernatural guides lead her to a witch and a spell to change her mother and her fate.
The charm takes unexpected effect. Her mother is now a bear in a fortress with an army trained for ursine extermination and with a 48-hour sell by date on her chance of returning to humanity. The princess must call on all the of the skills she has learned to save her mother and the alliance. With the return of Mor'du, the queen learns there is a place for decorum and a time to liberate the animal within.
The story gives examples of what it means to be brave. The king has physical courage; each of the chieftains is a brave, a warrior; the queen has the courage of her convictions; Merida is fearless and reckless but only under test does she learn moral courage demonstrated in her maiden speech to the clan alliance, amusingly part-teleprompted by her mother. From the pen of writer/animator Brenda Chapman this is fairytale with a difference: no prince, no hero, no man of the moment to save the day; no helpful comic side-kick. A far more emotionally truthful story emerges than the usual Disney fare.
My movie buddy was reminded of Bend It Like Beckham, where a daughter's aspirations are supported by her father and challenged by her mother. Both films depict the classic conflict of a parent attempting to impose on their offspring the same expectations they themselves experienced growing up and meeting with rebellion.
Comic highlights include urchinous, ginger, curly-mopped, cake-obsessed, triplet mini prince brothers to Merida, table manners and fishing for bears, and the witch's voicemail message with menu options.