Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Brave

posted by Nell Minow
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some scary action and rude humor
Profanity:None
Nudity/Sex:Some potty humor
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:Peril and violence including scary animals with big teeth
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:June 22, 2012
DVD Release Date:November 12, 2012

“Brave” is not just one of the best movies of the year for any age; it is one of the best movies ever made from a female point of view.

It has been a long time coming.  Pixar’s unprecedented series of outstanding critical and audience successes has been justifiably criticized because its leading characters have almost always been white and male.  While “The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo,” and “A Bug’s Life” had important female characters (you might also include “Wall•E”), it was the male characters who were at the center of the story.  With its 13th film, Pixar has given not one but two female characters center stage.  As we expect from Pixar (well, as we hope, following “Cars 2″), “Brave” is smart, fun, funny, and exciting, with gorgeous settings and endearing characters.  But this is something more.  It gives us a teenage girl in the leading role who is not pretending to be a boy (“Mulan”), unsure of herself, or trying to attract a boy (just about every movie ever made).  She is strong, independent, and completely comfortable with who she is.  It’s the rest of the world she thinks needs some change.

Merida (Kelly Macdonald of “Boardwalk Empire” and “Gosford Park”) is a Scottish princess and by tradition, she will marry whichever of the sons of the local lairds bests the others in an athletic competition.  But she has no interest in marrying any of them.  Her mother (Emma Thompson) makes her dress up in a confining outfit that barely lets her breathe and hides her wild , unmanageable hair.  But Merida splits the seams of the dress, takes out her bow, and wins her own hand.  In some other movies, that would be the end.  Here, it is the beginning.  To split the seams of tradition the way she burst through the confines of her regal attire, Merida asks for help from a witch (Julie Walters, Mrs. Weasley in the Harry Potter movies).  She says she wants to change her fate.  She should have been more specific.

Things go terribly wrong, and soon Merida finds her relationship with her mother turned upside down.  Merida learns what it like to have to take care of someone.  Her mother has to learn something, too.  Their new situation (I am trying not to give too much away here) gives the queen a chance to take a new look at Merida and see how capable and trustworthy she is, while the queen herself begins to lose her connection to civilization.  And all of this is in the midst of antics from Merida’s mischievous triplet little brothers, the struggles between the clans, the witch’s travels (her voicemail equivalent is hilarious), and a very scary bear who once took part of Merida’s father’s leg and may be back for more.

Action, comedy, and heart are expertly balanced and the mother-daughter dynamic gives the story a powerful appeal.  For me, it felt like a rare chance to hear a story in my native language.  There was no need to translate.  The wild beauty of the crags and tors of the Scottish landscape provide a bracing environment for Merida’s real and psychological journey with her mother.  Merida is a winning heroine who does not define herself by getting or being a boy and it is a pleasure to share her story.

Parents should know that this film includes scary animals with big teeth, characters in peril, witch, transformation, and some potty humor.

Family discussion: What did Merida and her mother learn about each other from their adventure? How do you decide which traditions to keep and which ones to change?

If you like this, try: “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Mulan” and “The Incredibles”



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Toby Clark

    Great story, great characters, great animation, great voice acting. Not quite a top-tier Pixar film for me, but certainly up to their usual standard. 9/10.

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, Toby! I always look forward to hearing what you think!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Janine

    My daughter is so excited to finally be able to see this film. Is the 3D worth the extra ticket money?

    • Nell Minow

      I enjoyed the 3D, Janine, but I think it will be equally entertaining without.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Abby

    Nell,

    I saw this movie with 4 teenaged girls — three of them my daughters, aged 13, 16, and 18. It was surprising and inspiring for them, and for their mother.

    My 18 year old said how pleased she was that there was no romantic ending; Merida does not pair up with one of the clan sons (the prince character as found in one stereotypical ending to these types of movies) or even with the archery master’s son/ barn urchin (non-existent in this movie, but my 18 year old’s guess before the seeing it, ie the other stereotypical romantic character of the thief with the heart of gold.)

    The main relationship of the film — that between mother and daughter — is meaningful, poignant, and should resonate for all moms and tween/teen daughters. Eleanor learns a lot about her daughter; if her desires for Merida don’t change…and really, few mothers desires for their daughters DO change…she accepts that Merida might fulfill some of those desires, but in a more personally authentic way. It’s also important that Merida learns some critical skills and appreciation of her mother’s values as well, as seen when she walks through the crowd and they stop fighting, and she addresses them with poise.

    This is a movie that teen girls and mothers can enjoy together. And I hope that all moms hear something like what I did; my 16 year old repeatedly whispering under her breath during the sunrise scene “Apologize! Just say you’re sorry!”

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks so much, Abby! I loved your story. I am one of three girls and I wish we could all see this one with our mom!

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