Before you go and see Pixar’s latest, you should probably be aware that it isn’t a Pixar film. It’s got nothing to do with the fact that it’s a princess story, but it’s everything to do with the way the story is told. For a company who’s films are constantly pushing boundaries and showing us something original, Brave is about as far as they can get from their norm and is quite ironically named. Set in medieval Scotland, it follows Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a princess going through her teenage years encouraged by her giant of a father (Billy Connolly) and scolded by her disapproving mother (Emma Thompson). As the day of her betrothal draws near, she asks a witch (Julie Walters) for a spell to change her mother and change her fate. Of course it goes horribly wrong and Merida has to use her Katniss-esque archery skills and Scottish will to save the day.

The main problem with Brave is the predictability. It’s not like Pixar films keep you guessing but they’re not as predictable as this. From the start it follows the most obvious story with no surprises to make you sit up and pay more attention. There’s one scene with The Witch that gives the entire story away in a sentence. At that point the only reason to stay is for the animation which is really something, but more on that later. It even pulls out the old Disney trick of drawing on fairytales like Goldilocks (see: Merida’s brothers) and after that it descends into something that feels like Shrek’s distant cousin. None of the characters have the charm previous Pixar characters have and to top it all off, in this writer’s opinion it had a very abrupt ending. The story came to it’s conclusion and the credits rolled without any warning.

On to the good. The animation is superb, Merida’s hair is Pixar’s greatest triumph to date. It’s worth sitting through the film just to watch it flow behind her as she rides through the equally spectacular scenery. Those months spent in Scotland have served the filmmakers well as they’ve successfully brought to life some of the most beautiful and mysterious areas of the country. Leaving a group of Americans in charge of a Scottish based film was always going to end badly when it came to the speech and they haven’t disappointed. There’s a fair bit of “och jings”, an excellent line delivered by one of the young suitors (“If he was a wee bit closer, I could lob a caber at him, ye ken?”) and one particularly brilliant character who no one will understand, not even the Scots, who is clearly the brainchild of America. Other highlights include Merida’s mother just after her transformation and a band of bagpipers who only play when there’s a fight happening.

In some ways it’s a cleverly titled film because it’s not a film anyone would immediately associate with Pixar. Even the soundtrack is borderline Disney/Dreamworks so for Pixar to go ahead with this is quite a step considering their past films. But in other ways it’s an inaccurate title. As a Pixar film it’s a brave leap of faith but as a film it’s a generic fairytale. It lacks the Pixar charm we’ve come to know and love and after Toy Story 3 and Up, it’s just a bit shallow and predictable. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable, because it is. It’s another Cars; a good film but not a good Pixar film. On a final note; if you’re undecided about whether to see it, the short animation before the main feature is worth the ticket price alone.

You can read my earlier article, pitching Disney and Pixar against each other, here.