I'm not gonna lie, I'm a Pixar fangirl, and when I heard that Pixar was FINALLY working on a movie for girls, I was pretty excited. I'm not a mom, but I'm often worried about how our girls are currently being raised. Disney princesses aren't always the greatest examples of womanhood that I'd like for my imaginary daughter to emulate; they generally settle for marrying the handsome Prince Charming and having a baby in the end. And don't get me wrong, as a little girl I wanted to both have a twirly dress AND swing a big sword while riding a horse. So I get that impulse to be a pretty princess. But it breaks my heart when I see eight year old girls worshiping, say, Paris Hilton.
Anyway, Brave, is essentially Pixar's first Disney princess film. Based on the trailers, I thought I knew what I was going to see. I thought it was going to be like Mulan: restless tomboy princess, likes to shoot arrows, likes to ride fast horses, wants to prove herself. War comes to her home and she has the chance to show that anything boys can do, girls can do better. Except that's not really what Brave is about. Brave is, at its heart, a movie about mothers and daughters. It's about that time in a girl's life when she's struggling to become a woman and find her path, and utters that eternal refrain "Mom, you just don't get it!" And I'm not going to say any more than that because the direction it takes is surprising and lovely.
I screened the film with a ton of families. Throughout the film I heard lots of gasps, lots of laughs, and the occasional "No! Don't go in there!" The kids sitting next to me were about 5 and 7 and were just enthralled the whole time. The dad sitting next to me laughed. A lot. Toward the end, without ruining the film, there's something BAD that happens; the little 7 year old girl next to me just started sobbing and said "Mommy, don't go!" and climbed up to cuddle with her mom. And at the end, when the credits came up, there was a big cheer and tons of applause. It's a lovely film, one I'd take my imaginary daughter to, and doesn't have any of the typical Disney princess angst over some Prince Charming (or 100-year-old vampire as the case may be for girls nowadays). It deals with a fairly emotionally complex issue in a way that little pre-tween girls might understand.
As for the visuals, they are occasionally stunning. There were some shots where I totally forgot I was watching something animated. And for you Apple fans, stay for the credits, there's a lovely "in memoriam" for Steve Jobs, the man who really gave Pixar the money and space to get to where it is today. Is Brave the best Pixar film? I'd still put my money on Wall-E or Up, (if you dot get teary eyed at the opening flashback sequence in Up, you're a ROBOT and need a tune-up because your emotion chip is busted) but Brave is a great start at blending the heart and visuals and imagination of Pixar with the classic storytelling of Disney.
Now if you will excuse me, I need to go call my mom to tell her that I love her.
Brave opens Friday, June 22nd.