Hollywood takes on the subjects of clan culture and female emancipation in a slightly mythical and idealised version of the medieval Highlands of Scotland. It's not an instantly appealing synopsis for a film and we have to admit to approaching "Brave" with some caution, largely because of the widespread expectations raised by the pre-release hype. This is a film it would have been very easy to get very wrong, in so many different ways.
But Pixar have a rock solid track record and in our view have yet to release a poor film. And having seen Brave with a paying audience in a cinema in central Scotland, we can report that their record remains unblemished. Brave is a wonderful film that draws you into a story that is by turns charming, funny and dark. And its treatment of Scotland feels just right. Yes, many of the stereotypical cliches are included, not least the age old question "what does a Scotsman wear under his kilt", but the cliches feel intentional, and add much to the humour of the film. This is perhaps most obvious in the speech of Lord MacGuffin and his son, both voiced by Kevin McKidd in Doric, a dialect of north east Scotland. Much has been made of the thought that audiences won't understand what they are saying: the humour comes from the fact that other characters in the film can't understand what they are saying either.
Meanwhile the strong female lead characters are especially welcome and the portrayal of the landscape of Scotland is nothing short of magnificent, and benefits greatly from the truly outstanding animation which adds so much to the experience of watching the film. It is no surprise that Scotland's national tourist board, VisitScotland, have invested a significant amount in a promotional advert which accompanies the film.
The plot that lives within the visual splendour of Brave is enjoyable and engaging, if not perhaps quite as complete and flawless as Pixar classics such as "Monsters Inc" and "Cars". But then we've seen those films many times, and Brave will probably also grow with repeated re-watching: which it is certainly good enough to sustain, or even demand. Princess Merida rebels against her mother's wish to marry her off to the winner of a tournament between the first born sons of the three leading clans, and her excursion into the supernatural in order to find a way out of her situation has unforeseen consequences, especially for her mother, Queen Elinor. Dangers are faced by both of them as they seek to reverse what Merida has done, and the film builds to a satisfyingly climactic conclusion.