This princess thing has been around for awhile. My own royal memory goes back many years to when I used to put a pair of tights on my head and pretend I was Rapunzel, not caring that my long flowing hair was shaped like feet at the end. And when my daughter was six years old, she convinced the lunch lady at her kindergarten that her real name was Cinderella; they called her that for the whole year. So maybe it’s genetic.

Pixar doesn’t usually do princesses, preferring their subjects to be fish, rats, robots or old men. So I was worried that the company had been completely Disneyfied when I heard that their new animated film Brave would feature a feisty redhead who was great with a bow, kind of cross between Ariel and Katniss.

This princess is called Merida and she is being groomed by her mother to be the next queen of a Scottish kingdom. She has all the usual rebellious traits of her previous film models and one assumes that she will reject the goofy clansmen her family wants her to hook up with and follow her heart to a handsome pauper who is probably a prince in disguise. Film princesses have been allowed to show their strength and individuality more and more in the past years, but the ending is still presumed to be happily ever after with a guy. Merida’s personality is completely encapsulated by her mop of outrageous fire engine red curls that would make even Bernadette Peters envious. The animation of her hair is astonishing – the movement, the volume, the expressiveness is so great that when her mother tries to tame her daughter’s wildness by covering her hair with a snood, the girl practically disappears.

As the mother/daughter struggles continue and Merida starts to seem more like a bratty twelve year old than an enchanting princess, I noticed that this fairy tale was not turning out the way I had expected. When Merida slips a potion into her mother’s food that changes everything (including her fur quotient), I was suddenly blown away by the realization that Pixar had just turned the story into a mother/daughter relationship film disguised as a princess movie.

Anyone who has a daughter who has insisted on wearing her Belle Halloween costume to dinner every single night for six weeks will be able to appreciate the mother’s calming influence and gentle guidance, even as the ungrateful kid turns her into a bear. Children are indeed a blessing, but it’s nice to be reminded every once in a while that it’s not always about them, even if they are sure that it is. I don’t know if the audience of Sleeping Beauties will recognize themselves in Merida, but I’m sure the moms will. I know I would feel a lot better about buying a Brave lunchbox for my princess because I knew there was a tiny little lesson hidden in there with her turkey sandwich.

There’s plenty of other reasons to watch the movie, the chief one being the extremely proper queen trying to be gracious with a bear butt the size of a washing machine. I find bears hilarious, and this is one of the best. When Merida visits the witch’s cottage to get the spell, the entire place is a magical demented gift shop filled with carved bears in every pose imaginable. I hope Disney picks up this theme and markets these carvings in their parks. They are way more entertaining than the Country Bears Jamboree. Merida also has three younger brothers who are triplets with the same kind of hair as hers, and watching them work together is like watching miniature Conan O’Briens wreak havoc.

I’m really pleased that Pixar’s stories have retained their uniqueness after their merger with Disney in 2006. The film also has a lovely dedication to Steve Jobs at the end, reminding us of just how amazing his contributions were in a variety of ways.

My own princess is grown up now, but references still show up in her work (as in a comedy show she wrote titled Wrestling With Ursula: Finding Your Voice Without A Prince’s Help). It’s good to know that all those years of pretending to be Cinderella gave her enough confidence to harness those damn birds and make them work for the general good, as opposed to just flying around with ribbons in their mouths. She called me to ask if I had seen Brave and tell me how much she loved it, and we had a mother daughter moment that showed me that even if they want to turn you into a bear, eventually they grow out of it.

Barf Bag Rating: ZERO BAGS

No bears were harmed in the writing of this review,
but here’s a great photo of one falling out of a tree.

One thought on “Brave

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