Year: 2012
Production Co: Pixar
Studio: Disney
Director: Mark Andrews/Brenda Chapman/Steve Purcell
Writer: Mark Andrews/Brenda Chapman/Steve Purcell/Irene Mecchi
Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, John Ratzenberger

I hadn't intended to go out of my way to see this movie, and only did so because I was at the cinema and nothing else was on. The reason was because of all Pixar's movies, it seemed the most similar to every other CGI animated 3D movie around with the same tired 'be yourself' messages kids films have drilled into us for decades.

My suspicions were confirmed. It had fantastic animation, a great design aesthetic and an engaging enough story. But they all have those nowadays. It's hard to say what's missing but the special Pixar sauce that was so charming in Wall.E, had such energetic zing in Ratatouille and made the Toy Story films so successful is missing.

Teenage Merida (Macdonald, whose voice I was trying to place the entire way through) is a princess in the verdant hills and forests of feudal-era Scotland and wants nothing more than to fall in love when it suits her, content to practice her bow and enjoy her freedom until it happens.

But the world depicted (no doubt historically accurate to some degree) dictates that she should be a lady and marry into an allied clan, encouraged by her stalwart mother (Thompson) and enforced reluctantly by her huge, hairy and loving father the king (Connolly).

But when Merida has a chance to change her mother's mind by force using a spell given to her by a local witch (Walters), the movie goes off on another plot retread we've seen a million times before – first, don't try to force things to change because you'll change them for the worse. Second, be careful what you wish for.

Merida's mother is turned into a bear through a plot contrivance that sounds ridiculous but actually works, and the race is on to keep her out of the way of her battle-hardened father and the other clansmen (who'd never believe who the bear really is) and restore her to human form.

There's been a lot written about the character of Merida and her place as a female hero. The technical design is quite brilliant with her huge shock of unruly red hair, a metaphor for a personality that won't be tamed.

But it's far less a feminist statement than it is a convenient plot device. A boy simply wouldn't face the same restrictions in the era depicted in the film and there's no stronger metaphor for struggling against the world to find your path through life despite all the obstacles and expectations placed in your path that being a girl, even today in many cases.

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