Brave review: Mum's the word as Scottish-set Disney-Pixar spectacular shines

Brave review
Brave reviewDisney/Pixar
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Even if it had nothing else going for it, Brave would surely be the only blockbuster this summer to have its protagonist exclaim, "Jings, crivens, help ma boab!" (Well, unless Batman decides to take his cues from The Broons for The Dark Knight Rises.)

Thankfully, though, the sweeping and stunningly beautiful film is a return to form after last year's (relatively) disappointing Cars 2.

The story takes more twists along its than you might expect from the trailer, but focuses on wee Scottish lass Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), whose spirit is just as fiery as her amazing red-haired locks.

Despite the best intentions of her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), the princess is something of a tomboy, displaying particular proficiency with a bow and arrow.

When the Lords arrive at castle to present their sons to King Fergus (Billy Connolly) for the customary betrothal, before a gathered crowd, Merida rebels. As she seeks to change her fate, she makes a reckless decision which has consequences far beyond what she anticipated,

While the tone is about as far from Trainspotting as you can expect – and the film is firmly set in a fairytale version of the country – there’s still a discernable authenticity to the Scottish setting. A lot of the credit for that should go to Macdonald and a mainly Scottish cast, who ensure that the dialogue feels firmly rooted in its setting.

Among the highlights is Kevin McKidd’s almost indecipherable north-east accent as one of Merida’s potential suitors, Young MacGuffin. He also plays Lord MacGuffin, with Robbie Coltrane (Lord Dingwall) and Craig Ferguson (Lord Macintosh) lending their considerable comic talents as part of the rowdy trio.

Billy Connolly is funny and massively charming as King Fergus, also boisterous but a loving and tender father. It’s the family dynamic that lies at the heart of Brave, and Connolly, Thompson and Macdonald work together marvellously in this respect – Merida’s tantrums sure to send shivers down the spine of parents the world over.

Mainly Brave centres around the mother-daughter bond, and there’s sure to be tears in the eyes of many as they shuffle out of the cinema this August.

This is the first Pixar movie to feature a female protagonist, and it’s come at just the right time – following a year of strong young girls taking the lead, from Katniss in The Hunger Games to Snow White in Snow White and The Huntsman.

It is without doubt the most visually stunning animated film seen to date, pushing boundaries in terms of what can be achieved. I could have spent two hours just looking at Merida’s amazing hair alone – its red curls mesmerising to behold – while the fantastic windswept scenery is about as strong an advert for visiting Scotland as tourism bosses could ever hope. (No wonder visitscotland have wisely tied themselves closely to the release of the movie.)

If there’s a criticism to be levelled at Brave, it’s that for much of the movie the stakes don’t feel particularly high, with too little sense of peril until close to the end. But this doesn’t matter too much when events are a huge amount of fun, and an enemy for Merida arrives in the shape of a huge, scarred, lumbering bear that should have youngsters covering their eyes.

Though primarily a Pixar film, this is steeped in Scottishness through and through. The country can be immensely proud to have provided such inspiration. And in Merida, gingers everywhere will have a new heroine to look to whenever the mickey-taking gets a bit too much...

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