Keep in mind that this is MY review of the movie. Your opinion may very well differ from mine.
Brave follows the story of Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a young princess who is the daughter of Lord Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Merida and her mother are clashing with each other over what they want for Merida's future; Elinor wants her to be the perfect princess, while Merida would rather be riding horses, practicing archery, and leading her own life. When things come to a boiling point at a competition between different kingdoms for who will be the one to marry Merida, the girl runs off to find a spell that will change her fate. However, her actions have unexpected consequences, which forces Merida to try and figure out how to make things right.
The beginning of this movie really had me thinking that this movie had the potential to be one of Pixar's best. It had solid humour, a family dynamic that I could personally relate to, a good set of characters, and the emotion that Pixar is known for. When the story and overall conflict came into play, though, things really began to slow down for me. It stopped being a Pixar movie, and began to turn into a generic Disney princess movie. It really lost a lot of the initial charm that it had for the first third, though it did have its moments here and there. Luckily, the third act picks up the pace, and while it doesn't quite match up to how the movie started, it manages to stear things back in the right direction.
This is the first Pixar movie to have the lead role be a female, which is what most people are talking about. This is completely pointless if she's a bad character, though. Well luckily, I did like Merida as a protagonist. You're able to see where she's coming from to a certain extent and sympathize with her, but you also are able to see that she needs to grow as the movie goes on, which goes to make her a better person, and a better character in the end. Asides from her father, though, most of the supporting cast for the movie is pretty forgettable.
Voice acting is a tricky thing: you either have it, or you don't. If a character has a bad voice, then the character as a whole will suffer greatly from that. Well fortunately, Pixar has a history of picking a strong voice cast. Emma Thompson does a good job of bringing Merida to life, while Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly both do a great job as the girl's parents. Unlike most animated movies these days, though, there really isn't a stand out voice actor. Everyone does their job and does it well, but there isn't one person who rises above everyone else. I'm not going to fault the movie for that, but I think it's worth pointing out at least.
If there's ANYTHING you can commend Pixar for (among everything else), it's how their films constantly set the standard for visual presentation. Brave continues this trend, managing to be Pixar's most visually stunning film to date, and considering the various other pieces of work that Pixar has put out, that is saying a lot. I do mean it, however: Brave is probably the best looking animated film I've seen in a very long time, possibly ever. Another thing that is expected from Pixar is it's strong soundtrack, which Brave also manages to be strong with as well. Simply put, Brave is outstanding on the presentation front.
After much consideration, I've decided that Brave is going to just barely manage to get by with a:
The movie opens and closes strongly, has a solid cast of main characters and voices, and it's a visual marvel to put it simply. However, it has a weaker supporting cast than most Pixar movies, and the middle portion is very basic, cookie cutter stuff that you can find almost anywhere. However, the strong moments that Brave has are strong enough to give this movie a rating slightly above Good. It's certainly not Pixar's best movie, but even Pixar's weaker entries are better than most animated movies you see these days. While Brave certainly had the potential to be better, it was good enough that I can recommend watching it and know that you'll have a good time doing so.
So, have you seen Brave? What did you think? Was I too harsh or too leniant? Did I miss anything? Let me know.