BLU-RAY REVIEW: Brave (Ultimate 5-Disc Collector Set)
Disney/Pixar's Latest Animated Feature Darker, Scarier And More Adventurous...
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Not all of Disney's princesses are pretty girls in pretty dresses drinking out of pretty tea cups. Girl power isn't dead in Disney/Pixar's latest film Brave. A fiery young Scottish princess who defies tradition, Merida (Kelly Macdonald) takes it upon herself to change her own way of life and the traditions of her tribe when she runs away from home to avoid a male suitor. Short on patience and high on energy, Merida is a crack shot with a bow-and-arrow (that's the new choice weapon for all teen girls, right?) and has more in common with the weapon-wielding boys in past Disney movies than other Disney princesses. So it's no surprise when Merida and her mother quarrel, the young princess marches out in a huff and finds herself at a witch's house in the woods where she asks the witch to create a spell to make her mother "change." Of course, Merida doesn't expect her mother to literally change, but when the Queen suddenly turns into a terrifying bear, it's up to Merida to find her mother a cure before her father, the great bear hunting King, unintentionally hunts and kills his own wife!
Filled with plenty of action and adventure, Brave - unlike previous Disney princess films - appears to be appealing to the modern girl who's ready to take the world by the horns and conqueror her own destiny. While the ways of the pretty dress, talking tea cups and singing saucers aren't completely obsolete, Brave appeals to a new young female viewer; a movie goer who's waiting to see more mature films like The Hunger Games while remaining childish enough to watch family films with Mom and Dad. Of course, Brave isn't necessarily as safe as it seems as it's got moments which could truly terrify the very young and for that alone Brave comes across as bold and a bit of a risk on the part of Disney. I applaud this and hope we see more risky films like it in the future.
Unfortunately, Brave also seems very formulaic and is less impressive than many fan-favorite Pixar films like Monsters, Inc., Toy Story or Cars. It's not as funny as Monsters, Inc., it's not as heart-felt as Toy Story, and it's not as creative as Cars. Yet that doesn't stop my 3 year old daughter from loving Brave, even if it frightens her constantly. The film will indeed entertain, but make no doubt about it, Brave is solidly geared towards a younger audience. While its humor, adventure and excitement will keep many adults entertained for a time, it's no where near as engaging as it could be.
All that said, the moral of the story is indeed well worth experiencing and Brave does a great job of teaching a lesson which all children need to know: one's destiny is up to us, we simply have to be brave enough to find it. We find Merida and her mother's relationship strained at the beginning of the film and only through even more difficult hardship do the pair learn to live, love, laugh and grow closer. This will help those families who struggle (and who's doesn't?) realize that all families face difficult times and it's not what the difficulty is but how we face it that decides what type of people we are. Important lessons for children as well as adults!
This 5-disc set includes the film on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy and will ensure you're able to watch it wherever you go. The Blu-ray 3D is solid and presents a dynamic picture that's engaging. That said, with a film like this, it's nearly impossible to keep a 3 y.o. at home from taking off their 3D glasses and thus I still personally prefer regular Blu-ray to Blu-ray 3D in instances like this. With both, colors are bright, bold and beautifully rendered. The dark scenes, of which there are many, feature plenty of contrast and ensure characters like the demon bear Mor'du are visible when necessary. Likewise, the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround track delivers plenty of powerful effects from across the sound stage. Birds caw, arrows impact targets, and bears roar from all sides, ensuring those with a home theater hear the action from all sides.
As for special features, the set includes a solid variety one expects from a Disney/Pixar release, including an Audio Commentary with director Mark Andrews, co-director Steve Purcell, story supervisor Brian Larsen and editor Nick Smith. Fun, informative, and well thought out, the four discuss everything from production and voice acting to animation, the score and more. 50-minutes "Behind the Scenes" featurettes, broken into 8 parts, provide an extensive look at the film from a variety of perspectives, including "Brave Old World" (crew's trip to Scotland), "Merida & Elinor" (film's female characters), "Bears" (about - what else? - bears), "Brawl in the Hall" (the clan fight scene), "Wonder Moss" (about - you guessed it! - animated moss), "Magic" (the story's background in magic), "Clan Pixar" (the studio in general) and "Once Upon a Scene" (looking at specific scenes from the film). Each is informative, entertaining and fun for those looking for more info on Brave.
Other special features include 13-minutes of extended scenes, an alternate opening, a number of deleted shots and scenes, and a number of shorter featurettes focused on a variety of topics, including the dirty hair and look of the Scottish characters, the Scottish slang, designing Merida's horse, and the importance of the family's hand-woven tapestry. Each in its own right is somewhat interesting, though casual fans won't find much here. Lastly, a number of art galleries - including characters, development art, environments and more - are also included.
While not disappointing, Brave seems less the blockbuster standout we're used to from Disney/Pixar. Though what Brave does, it does well. It's engaging for those children looking for scary adventure and dynamic action. And those children who can watch the entire film and not cower in fear will find at its heart a fun, endearing film about a young princess who knows in her heart what she has to do in order to be true to herself. We could all learn a great and valuable lesson from Princess Merida and the fun that is Brave.
Brave is available on Tuesday, November 13 wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley