Brave is like nothing Pixar's made before, but not for the reasons you might expect. For starters, it's a straightforward fairy tale, and for the first time in the studio's history, it's not about a boy. So, who's the lucky lady who gets to break Pixar's animated glass ceiling? Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a stubborn girl who's got a head of wild red curls and wicked aim with a bow. She's the daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), who rule over the Scottish kingdom of DunBroch. Elinor hopes to make a proper princess out of Merida -- and, as tradition dictates, marry her to another lord's son -- but the young lass doesn't want any part. They clash as only a mother and daughter can, leading Merida to take a drastic, supernatural measure. (That's where the fairy tale comes into play.) Brave is simply not Pixar's best. Unlike WALL-E or Toy Story, it doesn't tug at your heartstrings or take aim at sentiment. It's far from the kind of "adult" movie that Pixar does so well. To be fair, it carries itself with an admirable innocence, a callback to traditional sorts of children's stories that are certainly entertaining -- but, don't expect much more than that. There is one thing, thankfully, that stays the same throughout: Brave is gorgeous. There's an exciting flavor to the film's look, from its brilliant landscapes of medieval Scotland to the rush of its awesomely rendered action sequences. While it's incredible to think it took so long for Pixar to put a lady in the spotlight, Brave is an admirable, long overdue start. Now playing. Area theaters. Visit fandango.com.
Reviewed by Chris Heller.
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