We went to see Brave today with three of our grandchildren, one daughter and one daughter-in-law. What a wonderful film, though not entirely for children, who might find it quite scary in places. The five-year-old grandson assured me he was okay while at the same time telling me it was a bit scary. And it was: the scene in which the ferocious bear appears, and especially the big battle between the male and female bear at the end, are very frightening. If you're five.
But frightening bits apart, this is a delight. The characters have originality about them, the story isn't as straightforward as it might first appear, and the detail in every scene insists that we come back for a second or third look at the movie.
The wonderful thing about animated movies in particular is the artwork that's involved. It's in a league of its own, but more importantly it invariably celebrates the beauty of the world. Brave is no exception (and the short Pixar movie that accompanied it, in which three generations of starkeepers deal with the latest influx of stars, is just a wonder from beginning to end). The Scottish wilds are wonderfully portrayed, and the animals in the film (in particular the heroine's horse, and her father's dogs) have their own personalities, but are also animated wonderfully as animals.
Brave's big plus, in terms of animated movies, is that it concerns a young girl who knows her own mind, and who's finally allowed to follow it. While females have often been the subject of cartoons, from Snow White onwards, they've seldom been as adventurous or forthright as Merida, the heroine of this movie. Merida has to battle with her mother at all points, but she manages to win through at the end still on the same side. Both characters have matured by the time we're finished.
The vocal work is delightful too - the script includes a number of less commonly used words that fit well with the Scottish accents. Kelly MacDonald plays Merida, Emma Thompson her mother, and Billy Connelly her father. I wasn't sure that Connelly was going to work at first, even though he seems an obvious choice for the role: he's larger than life and the character he plays is larger than life both personality-wise and physically. But Connelly has a way of reading his lines in movies that doesn't always ring true. Fortunately for Brave this style is soon left behind, partly because he gets fewer and fewer lines to say as the movie goes on.
Julie Walters appears as the wood-carving witch, and is quite unrecognisable. There are a number of other reasonably well-known actors in the smaller roles including an actor named Patrick Doyle. This is the same Patrick Doyle who composed the score, and his score is a delight from beginning to end; even the bagpipes come across effectively. Doyle the actor has appeared in other movies he's composed the score for, including two of the Kenneth Branagh Shakespeare adaptations.
At the opposite end of movie-making, as it were, we watched the second in the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo trilogy; The Girl Who Played with Fire. Like its predecessor, it's violent in the extreme, though there are thankfully no sexually abusive scenes. (There is one what-seemed-to-me-to-be unnecessary lesbian sex scene, however.) Unlike its predecessor, it relies on a lot of coincidence, and there's much less actual mystery to it. The heroine manages to find out things fairly easily, and Blomqvist finds her even more easily at the end, by which time she's been beaten, shot and buried alive. She's one tough cookie. The story is left hanging (unlike the first film) and it's presumably necessary to see the last movie to get some of the unfinished business dealt with. The revelation about her father in this one seems a bit far-fetched, especially as the first time we saw him he was drastically on fire to the extent that you wouldn't have thought he'd have survived. Seemingly he's as tough as his daughter. (And let's not mention his even tougher son, who's very unpleasant.)