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Film Four Stars
Pixar are amazing, of that there is no doubt, and that's what had me so excited about seeing Brave at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this year, that and of course the fact that the story is set in Scotland and filled with everything Scottish...apart from a few of the voice actors and everyone else behind the scenes. That wasn't a bad thing though for the voice talent was great, the trailers looked good, and did I say it's Pixar? That's surely an instant win.

However it's not all Pixar because Disney are there too and when I look back on Wall-E (Filmstalker review) that's where my concern comes for Brave because Wall-E was fantastic until the overly-sentimental and the hugely obvious Disney story hit you in the face like a brick wrapped in space dust. Of course the Pixar magic manages to coat over the unsubtle style of the Disney story and delivers a fantastic film, but without Disney it would have been, well, Pixar.

So the question was did Disney stick their nose into the Pixar film and taint it from what it could have been or did Pixar manage to win out? The difference could mean a step away from perfection. You can probably guess already.

Plot.pngBrave.jpgIn Scotland, during the times of the Clans, the King and Queen have followed with tradition and gathered the three other Clan leaders together so that their first born can compete together for the right to marry the Princess. However the Princess is a feisty and hugely independent woman and doesn't want to be married off to someone that she hasn't fallen in love with and picked for herself, something that causes the Queen great consternation and results in a huge falling out. In defiance the Princess heads off into the forest and discovers a witch who is willing to sell her a spell that will change her mother and allow her to make her own decisions, a spell that doesn't quite have the desired effect and brings about a terrible change that jeopardises the entire land.

TheFilm.pngBrave opens superbly and all the Pixar magic is there across the CG and the storytelling. You're drawn to the characters really quickly and through the combination of the funny and natural writing and the amazing CG animation for character's facial expressions and actions. You feel yourself sucked into the world, the characters and their story with next to no effort and it all feels new and exciting.

I can't successfully describe to you how amazing the CG animation is and it isn't just in the characters actions and expressions which look fantastically believable, you also see it in the amazing landscapes, Princess Merida's hair, her horse and of course in some of the wonderfully visualised and directed scenes. Take for instance the scene where the Princess takes her final arrow shot and we enter a slow motion of the arrow leaving the bow and we see the effect of the pressures on the arrow from the bow and on hitting the target, it looks fantastic and the thought and detail that's gone into the smallest of elements of these scenes makes it all the more believable. This happens throughout the film in the smallest to the largest moments and it's one of the things that makes Pixar films so special.

I found I lost myself in the landscapes and while I was there I forgot that I was watching a CG animation and that there was any 3D involved which I find is a good thing in any 3D film. The 3D was not the usual throwing things to and fro the camera, it was used as another tool in the film-making process such as lighting and set design and there were some nice uses of it for certain visual moments. All in all I totally forgot about 3D and was lost in the film.

Other than the odd moment I didn't see any requirement for 3D or any benefit to having it, in fact the reverse. When I did notice the 3D it was a distraction from the film and usually when I noticed one element poking forward that's when I realised that other elements in the scene and scenes around it looked very layered - by that I mean there were foreground, mid-ground and background objects and no real feeling of graduated depth. You know, like real life.

Story wise I must admit to a disappointment, much like with Wall-E (Filmstalker review) but here it's even more noticeable. To begin with the magic of Pixar is everywhere and you can't help but fall into the story and the characters and start to enjoy yourself, but when all the introductions are done and we begin to see what the core story of the film is there's a great feeling of that Disney-esque brick to the face and - shazam - Disney has arrived.

When the core story revealed itself I did feel a disappointment fall over me. It's not that the core story is bad, it's just that it's so blatantly stock Disney fairy tale and as soon as it appears you know exactly how it's going to play out and how it will end, from the very moment it arrives. No matter what Pixar does around this the core story is still obvious all the way through. That said what Pixar does is magic it all up and you end up not bothered too much by the obvious stock tale and you're won over by the characters, their words and interactions, and the entrancing world that Pixar have created around it. That's what keeps you going. Looking at all the past Pixar films I believe that Pixar would have delivered something a little more imaginative and fresh than the tale we see here.

However don't take that as a damning of the film, far from it. It's because the film is so good that this part stands out so much and as a whole the film is hugely enjoyable and there was a lot of hearty laughing out loud from the media audience, helped along by one enthusiastic media child that had been brought in and was really getting into the spirit of the film and helping us all get there too.

I initially had some reservations about the Scottish aspect of the story, concerned that perhaps it would fall on clichés written and delivered by non-Scots who claim their ancestors were once the head of some important clan or such. I couldn't have been more wrong. There is a lot of Scottish-ness in the film and nothing will feel wrong to a Scottish audience, in fact there's a lot here to make you proud as well as to make you laugh - the character of Young MacGuffin does just that. The film feels more Scottish than Braveheart and delivers plenty of jokes that won't make you feel that someone's having a dig at you, if you're Scottish that is.

The voice actors are great as well. Kelly Macdonald and Billy Connolly are superb with Macdonald as Merida ever so natural and emotive and Connolly as the King relaxed and hilarious with his character, the film has a lot of fun with him. Emma Thompson as the Queen is good too, although sometimes her Scottish accent seemed a little forced. Kevin McKidd doesn't have too many opportunities playing Lord MacGuffin and Young MacGuffin but as the younger character he gets some superb laughs. It's a great cast all round but the leads of Macdonald and particularly Connolly were the stand out characters.

As with Pixar there's a nice opening short film to watch although I have to admit it didn't hold up to the previous ones we've seen but it's still inventive and magical and looks fantastic. As well as this there is a post credits scene to wait for; however it's pretty obvious and doesn't give you a lot back for sitting through the lengthy credits.

Oh and one thing about those credits, what's with the Celtic ninja throwing stars at the start?

Overall.pngBrave was hugely enjoyable and a lot of fun and made the grown up media audience laugh out loud quite a number of times, including me. The CG animation looked fantastic, particularly with Princess Merida's emotive face and the superb Scottish landscapes although you could easily forget the 3D to really appreciate the rest of the film and how good looking and rich in detail it is.

While the core story and moral are, as usual with Disney films, stock and as subtle as a brick wrapped in tartan, what Pixar have done with it and the package it's in make it very enjoyable although I don't think it's as strong a story as has been previously produced.

I can't help but think without Pixar Disney would be back to the stock tales appealing to the next generation of young children while without Disney Pixar would be back to the glory days film after film.

Kelly Macdonald is fantastic as the leading Princess Merida, but it has to be said that Billy Connolly's character of the King is perhaps the most funny and enjoyable on screen, and he delivers him well.

Any reservations a Scottish audience might have about Brave can be pushed to the side and I can thoroughly recommend the film to all audiences of all ages and all nationalities.

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