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Brave (2012)

My review of Brave is published at Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine.

Here’s how it starts:

Dear Moviegoer,

Please avoid reading reviews of Brave before you see it for yourself.

That sounds like strange advice from a critic, I know. But many who have reviewed Pixar’s new movie have revealed the film’s biggest and best surprises. Even the great Roger Ebert spells out most of the movie’s plot twists.


Perhaps they didn’t get the movie they were anticipating. Perhaps the marketing led them to expect something different. Pixar has marketed Brave as a story about a spirited young princess who talks back to society, charts her own course, takes on the boys at their own games, and shoots arrows with the precision of Robin Hood. It looks like an epic fantasy about a rebel with a cause.

But as per usual, Pixar’s marketing is a work of misdirection. They’re setting us up for that rare delight of being surprised at the movies.

Here’s a brief sketch of the setup, pretty much spoiler-free:

Somewhere in the enchanted Scottish Highlands of medieval times, King Fergus (with the fantastic voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson) have invited the leaders of three clans — the McIntoshes, the MacGuffins, and the Dingwalls — to their home. They want to find the best possible suitor for their daughter, in order to make a marriage that will sustain this fragile union of tribes.

But the spirited Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) wants nothing to do with any arranged marriage.

And it shows. In her finer moments, she’s impudent and grumpy; in her worst, she brashly disobeys. Reckless as her explosion of red hair, she’s more interested in showing off with her bow — a gift from her doting father — than forcing herself into the stifling corsets prescribed by her mother. She’d rather ride into the forest on Angus, her magnificent horse, than practice courtly manners while her triplet brothers run wild without consequences.

But when Merida disrespects her parents in front of the visitors, things go from bad to worse. In her rage of disobedience, she sets in motion events that threaten to destroy her family and jeopardize the peace of the kingdom.

Will she be brave enough to do the difficult thing, humble herself, and strive to repair the damage she’s done? Or will she insist on appeasing her own stubborn will?

That’s more than enough plot summary, don’t you think? Why say more? The pleasure is in seeing how it all plays out.

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Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet

Novelist and critic Jeffrey Overstreet teaches writing (Seattle Pacific University) and film studies (Northwest University and Houston Baptist University). He's written a memoir of moviegoing and faith (Through a Screen Darkly, Baker, 2007) and a fantasy series that begins with Auralia's Colors (The Auralia Thread, Random House, 2007-11). He's worked since 2001 as a film critic and columnist at Christianity Today, and he's been a regular contributor to Image, Paste, and Christ & Pop Culture. His writing has been recognized by The New Yorker and The Seattle Times. He regularly speaks at universities, conferences, and churches in the U.S. and abroad. Want to invite him to teach or speak? Email