HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Starring: Kelly MacDonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Waters
Directed by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Written by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Runtime: 93 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 13th, 2012
HTS Overall Score:97
Pixar has stumbled as of late in its film offerings to the public. “Cars” didn’t do too well, and “Cars 2” made “Cars” look like “Citizen Kane” in comparison. However, with the inclusion of “Brave” they’ve officially pulled themselves out of the slump they’ve been in for the last few years. With the inclusion of John Lassiter as head of BOTH Disney and Pixar you can see kind of a blending of the two studios. “Brave” has a unique feel of being part Pixar and part Disney. The lead (Merida) has the feeling of being a Disney princess rather than standard Pixar characters. This unique blend, however, turns out to just what the doctor ordered. Pixar gains entry into a true fantasy realm for the first time and decides to take on the old mystical fairytales of old, complete with a witch and spells gone awry.
Merida (Kelly MacDonald)is a feisty red headed princess, who would rather be off shooting arrows in the fields and riding her horse than playing the prim and proper princess that the queen, her mother, (Emma Thompson) would like her to be. Her Father, King Fergus, (Billy Connolly), is a rough and tumble ruler of his kingdom. A man who tends to agree with his daughter behind his wife’s back , all the while living up his past glories of fighting the dreaded man killing bear Mardu. Merida finds out one day that her parents have set up a tournament of strength between the 4 clans that King Fergus oversees, in order to vie for Merida’s hand in marriage. Aghast and angry Merida pulls out the stops, humiliating all the Lords in the process. Queen Elinor and Merida lash out at each other, both completely ignoring the feelings and viewpoints of their opponents, only to have the princess grab her horse and run off into the forest. Losing her way Merida comes upon the humble cottage of a witch, and after some clever bargaining, begs a spell from the witch to change her fate. Returning to the castle, the princess slips the spell to her mother, eagerly waiting for her mother to change her mind on the whole marriage thing. Unexpectedly Queen Elinor does NOT change her mind, but rather changes into a living bear! Realizing that the witch had tricked her Elinor and Merida slip out of the castle and strive to find the witches hut; upon reaching their destination the pair is told that the spell CAN be reversed if only they can repair the bond that was broken, but IF not, on the second day the spell would become permanent.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9817[/img]Figuring out how to get back into the castle and repair the family tapestry (which Merida believes is the “bond” that was mentioned) the two must learn how to live with each other and truly see what makes the other person tick. As fates would dictate things go awry. King Fergus mistakes the bear for a wild one and believes that his missing wife, Elinor, was eaten by said bear. Merida follows her father into the forest, and confronts him about who the bear really is. Alas we finally see the man killer at last. Mardu crashes the party and it’s up to Merida and her mother to stop him.
“Brave” is a bit slim on the actual story this time around. It’s not nearly as deep and complex as some of Pixar’s earlier outings, such as “Toy Story” or “UP”, it also tends to feel a little heavy handed and “in your face” with the morality lesson, instead of being a tad more subtle. However, Pixar has 2 main weapons in its arsenal that makes them unique in the animated world. Pixar’s main strength is their characters, while the story may not have been as deep as others, their characters were fleshed out incredibly well. Pixar has the ability to truly make you see and care for each character as a person, rather than just having them play a role. While Queen Elinor is a bear, you see Merida and Elinor truly seeing who the other person is, and not just seeing what they want to see. You see Merida understanding her mother and seeing the wisdom of her ages, and you see Queen Elinor understanding for the first time that her daughter is growing up into an independent woman, and not just the child she’s been seeing her as. The second thing Pixar is known for is its ability to truly grab your heart and pull it in every direction. I was rolling on the floor laughing at one moment, and then sitting there wiping the tea…errrr… dust, yes that’s what we’ll call it, out of my eye. I had a blast watching “Brave” in the theater and I had an even better second outing watching it on my projector at home. A heartfelt fantasy that is truly sweet, endearing, funny and a tear jerker all at the same time.
Rated PG for some scary action and rude humor
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9820[/img]One of the things Pixar has always done well in their home video releases are providing the viewer with a top notch video encode, and “Brave” is no different. We are regaled with a brilliant 2.35:1 scope encode for the Blu-ray, a picture just overflowing with lush colors and detailed computer animation that would make Lucasfilm salivate in envy. I knew after viewing “Brave” in the theaters that we were in for an audio visual treat, but I was still picking my jaw up off the floor after I watched it projected on my 120 inch screen. Colors are bright and rich, just seeping into every pore of the movie. Merida’s flaming hair just lights up like a beacon in the dark and the green Scottish landscapes shimmer in the day scenes. While there is plenty of day scenes to showcase the bright cheerful colors there are also PLENTY of very dark scenes to showcase some fine shadow detail. Much of the film takes place in the darkness of the forest or the dingy, shadowy core of a medieval castle. While the film is very dark in these scenes it never goes so far as to wipe out any detail, even the smallest folds of Merida’s cowl or the fur of Mardu’s coat are intricately detailed even in the darkest of scenes. Artifacts are pretty much non-existent, the cinema viewer in me is ecstatic, but the critic in me gnashes his teeth in frustration. I almost hate to give another perfect score for video, but I have been blessed with reviewing some of the best encoded films in a long time and as always, Pixar does not fail to push itself head and shoulders above the completion.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9819[/img]The audio for “Brave” is about as close to aural perfection as one can expect. As with Pixar’s high standard’s we are greeted with not one, but TWO lossless audio tracks. The viewer has a choice between a 7.1 TrueHD track and a 5.1 TrueHD track. After A/B ing the two tracks on my system I couldn’t really see any difference besides the additional 2 rear surround channels, otherwise both were pretty identical. I was deeply impressed with the complexity of the tracks, instead of being just “aggressive” or “immersive” or “dialogue driven” we are privy to a complex balance of all of the above. We can have a quiet dialogue driven scene and then switch to the thundering horse of hooves of Merida fleeing the castle, branches tearing at her clothing and wind whipping around her, only to shift to a bubbling brook where you can literally hear and almost FEEL the water flowing around you amidst the haunting Scottish folk music. The score was stunningly beautiful and totally captured the feel of medieval Scotland. The surrounds were extremely well utilized, pulling the viewer directly into the center of the action and immersing one in the film. Dynamic range was very balance, nothing was too over powering and the need to raise and lower the volume during the film to hear vocals was non-existent. Dialogue was firmly planted in the center channel pleasing. LFE was strong and powerful when needed, but at the same time could blend right into the background and not hog the show. While not explosive and thunderous at all times as with your typical action movie the bass was deep and loooooooooow, there were several times I could feel Goosebumps on my arms from the vibrations, and when it came time the walls shook with the vibrations. Again, Pixar is known for quality and they deliver in spades here.
• Director's Commentary
• Short Films
• Behind the Scenes
• Extended Scenes
• Promotional Pieces
• Fergus & Mor'Du: An Alternate Opening
• Fallen Warriors
• Dirty Hairy People
• It is English... Sort Of
• The Tapestry
• Art Galleries
Pixar films have always been top notch and “Brave” is definitely no different. Sure the morality lesson can be a bit heavy handed and in your face, rather than the more subtle ventures of the past, but it’s still a sweet and endearing tale that made me tear up quite a few times during my viewings. I enjoy the fact that Pixar movies, much like Disney’s earlier glory days, can appeal to a wide age bracket. While marketed at kids, there’s something there for teenagers and adults alike. While I like to think of myself as one giant kid I can appreciate the more mature humor that is laced in with the childlike innocence. Again I must say I HIGHLY recommend Brave, whether you’re a young child, or whether you’re just young at heart, and with the exceptional Audio/Video scores I don’t think you can go wrong adding this to your collection.
Buy Brave on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Buy It!