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dir Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
prd Katherine Sarafian
scr Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi
voices Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Steve Purcell, Sally Kinghorn, Eilidh Fraser, Steven Cree, John Ratzenberger
release US 22.Jun.12, UK 13.Aug.12
12/US Disney 1h40
Take aim: Merida takes charge
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Pixar continues pushing boundaries with this lavishly animated Scottish adventure, which centres on an involving mother-daughter relationship. The characters are wonderfully vivid, even if the film never quite achieves the transcendence of its nearest Pixar relative, Ratatouille.
In the 10th century highlands, Princess Merida (voiced by Macdonald) is annoyed that her only fate seems to be to choose a suitor from three eligible losers. She'd much rather be out having epic adventures and making her own history. Her mother, Queen Elinor (Thompson), struggles to keep Merida in line, to say nothing of her rambunctious husband, King Fergus (Connolly), and three tearaway young sons. When Merida's frustration boils over, she consults a witch (Walters) about a spell that will sort her mother out. Of course, what happens isn't what she had in mind.
The central theme is pretty universal: parents and teenagers rarely listen to each other, which makes it difficult to understand not only each other but themselves as well. In this story it takes a mythical curse to snaps them to attention, but the characters are written, animated and voiced with a remarkable attention to detail. Telling movements and emotional performances draw us in, while the sweeping landscapes provide stunning backdrops.
Merida is a particularly strong character: a feisty young woman who simply has no time for the usual Disney-princess dreaminess. She isn't hoping that one day her prince will come; she's dreading that day, because it means she'll have to be a sidekick in her own life. She also bullheadedly refuses to see that history has given her responsibilities, and that her relationships are as important as her desire for independence. And the screenplay cleverly handles these resonant issues without hammering the message.
On the other hand, since the best scenes are interpersonal moments, the other stuff can feel gimmicky. The engaging action scenes are either humorous or scary, depending on the mood the filmmakers require at this moment in the story arc. And the male characters are little more than comic relief (although Fergus has his moments). But the film's real strength is in the central relationship, which pays off in a way that's far more delicate and complex than most animated films would dare.
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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