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Dan's DVD/Blu-ray Review: Brave

Pixar is back in form.
Brave (Disney/Pixar)

Rated PG for some scary action and rude humor.

Starring (voices of) Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Sally Kinghorn.

Written by Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, and Irene Mecchi.

Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:


Pixar is back. The pioneer of computerized animation has shown signs of decline over the past decade, with less-than stellar results for films like Ratatouille and the Cars sequel. I'm not suggesting that the quality of Pixar's animation has diminished; it's improved with the advance of technology. The creativity and storytelling has been the real issue, and the release of the animations studio's latest film Brave proves they can venture into new territory, by tapping into some good, old-fashioned Disney fairy tale charm.

Kelly MacDonald voices the young Merida, the daughter of Scottish King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) who lives a 'Tomboy' lifestyle; quite handy with a bow and arrow. Merida's less-than-feminine ways troubles her mother, who wants her to grow into more of an elegant queen, suitable for marriage. When the three main Scot clans gather at Fergus' castle, all three leaders bring their firstborn sons, intending to woo her hand in marriage through some sort of feat of strength.

Merida chooses archery as the contest for her hand in marriage, and realizes that she, as a firstborn, is equally qualified to win her own "hand," and proceeds to do so with an incredible display using her bow. Her stunt doesn't sit well with the clans or her mother, so Merida escapes into the woods where she encounters a witch (Julie Walters). The witch gives Merida a magical pie that will "change" the queen in the hope that she will ease up on her strict ways.

The pie changes Elinor into a large bear, and Merida is forced to keep the king and all the clansmen from killing her mother as she searches for an antidote to the witch's spell.

In the end, Merida and her mom learn a few things about themselves, freedom, and consequences.

Brave is a beautiful film and certainly on par with other Pixar creations in terms of animation quality. I'm amazed at the beauty of the Scottish scenery and rich detail in the characters, especially Merida's red, curly hair.

Brave's story is somewhat of a departure for a Pixar film, staying away from some of the quirky humor prevalent in previous features, while opting for a more traditional fairy tale. One exception would be Merida's triplet brothers, who are devilish and crafty, much like the Madagascar penguins.

Either way, I think it's important to distinguish Brave as a standalone film, and not only how is stands up against other Pixar movies. It may not be the best Pixar ever, but it's definitely worth seeing. The message alone and sweet story of a mother and daughter coming to terms with their relationship makes Brave a story that children and parents can enjoy.

DVD/Blu-ray Extras:

There are a LOT of extras, and perhaps too many. Despite the overabundance of supplemental material, the quality is interesting for those who like Pixar and are curious about Scotland.

The 5-disc set includes a 3-D Blu-ray disc (with some bonus material), a Blu-ray disc (including some bonus material), a special bonus material-only Blu-ray disc, a regular DVD disc (including some bonus material) and a digital copy disc.

Some of the extras included on Disc 1:

- Audio commentary from directors Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell.

- "La Luna" short film that premiered in the Brave theatrical release

- "The Legend of Mor'du" short film (made with "story board" paintings - not animated)

- "Brave Old World" short documentary, showing Brave production team scouts Scotland and its culture in preparation for the film

- "Merida and Elinor" short documentary on the mother-daughter relationship between the tow main characters, including animation, voice and hairstyles of Merida and her mother

- "Bears" short documentary, looking at the design and art research that goes into animating the bears, including Mor'du, Elinor and the three brothers

- "Brawl in the Hall" short documentary, a look at animating one of the more complicated and funny scenes from the film, including a chorus of grunting men used for the voices

- "Wonder Moss" short documentary, a look at how technical artists examined and mapped Scotland's green vegetation, giving an authentic look to the film's setting

- "Magic" short documentary, a look at the cultural legends of Scotland

- "Clan Pixar" short documentary, a humorous looks at how the Pixar team got into character while making Brave by dividing into clans, making haggis, and participating in Scottish customs

-"Once Upon a Scene" short documentary, a look at the evolution of some scenes, extended scenes and deleted scenes

- Extended scenes, including three separate scenes in extended form. Director Mark Andrews discusses the process in shortening the scenes

Disc 2 extras:

- "Fergus and Mor'du" alternate opening, narrated by director Mark Andrews

- "Fallen Warrior" montage, a selection of scenes cut from the film, narrated by director Mark Andrews

- "Dirty Hairy People" short documentary, a tongue-in-cheek look at the people of Scotland, their attire and "dirt-crusted" physiques

- "It is English...Sort Of" short documentary, exploring the Scottish-English dialect, helping fans interpret some of the unique language of Scotland

- "Angus" short documentary, a look at the design and creation of Merida's horse

- "The Tapestry" short documentary, a history of the embroidered emblem of family unity depicted in the film

- Brave promotional videos

- Art Gallery, showcasing some of the scenes and beautiful Scottish backgrounds in the film

-"Wee Gaffes" blooper reel montage

- "Renaissance Animation Man" short documentary, highlighting director Mark Andrews' love of Scotland

- Sneak peeks at upcoming Disney films and video releases


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