I know it's hard to believe, but I just saw Brave. Sorry, I was traveling! In fact, both my older kids saw it before me. Twice. So, the four year-old and I were the last to go. But, it was worth the wait. There are a few things in the movie that are quite rare in a Disney movie.
2. Not only does Merida have no interest in love, she has no love interest throughout the movie. The "happily ever after" is shared by Merida and her parents. Perhaps this is a nod to helicopter parents everywhere, but I really liked the absence of teen marriage from the movie.
3. There is flowing hair (which is apparently very hard to do by computer) and naked bottoms (all male, both old and very young). I loved the hair, but I could have been spared the kiltless Braveheart warriors.
So, the movie suffers from the fact that there just may not be any new stories under the Disney sun. Brave owes its ancestry to The Little Mermaid at the beginning, Beauty and the Beast at the end, and even Brother Bear in the middle. But what's wonderful and new about the movie is that the plot tension is between the headstrong daughter and her equally forceful mother. In most Disney movies, the mother is either long gone or beautifully calm and placid. Merida's mom, Elinor, is quite present and intent on making a princess out of the outdoorsy Merida, and on arranging her betrothal to the son of a clan leader to protect the peace of the kingdom. This results in a mother-daughter relationship recognizable to anyone with a daughter. I have to admit that some of the tension was all too familiar. But, this movie is not going to end with the mother seeing how right the daughter has been all along. Both women will gain understanding, but it's the daughter who will be the one apologizing at the end. (Yay!)
The past couple of decades have seen Disney heroines branching out from traditional damsels in distress roles. Modern heroines have to be fearless, independent, headstrong and proud (see Mulan, Pocahantas, Belle, Jasmine, etc.). But Merida's story is even better. No matter how independent the other "Princesses" have been, they all end up with a boyfriend/husband, and that's the definition of a good ending. But Merida's story doesn't end that way. She ends up not having to get married to anyone until she wants to, and the last scene is her and Elinor riding off into the sunset. Brava, Brave.
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