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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids will pick up some stuff about Scotland: the culture, the clans, the ancient dress, the idea that noble girls were often forced to marry out of obligation and alliance rather than love. They will also learn a bit about Scottish lore regarding the druid witch and will o' the wisps.
Themes include communication, courage, and self-control. The movie focuses on how an at-odds mother and daughter can mend their relationship and learn from each other. A mother is fierce when it comes to defending her daughter, and vice versa. The way that Merida and Elinor work together is a beautiful tribute to the bond between mother and child. The movie also teaches the idea that "legends are lessons" -- stories that can teach us all about follies like pride, greed, and selfishness.
Positive Role Models
Merida is strong-willed, stubborn, and smart: She wants to find her own way in the world, not be tied to a suitor for betrothal before she's ready for marriage. While she's independent and brave, she does make a misguided decision about how to deal with her disagreement with her mother. Elinor has many of the same qualities she has trouble dealing with in her daughter. She's a kind, intelligent queen with a strong sense of duty and how she must comport herself. During their shared ordeal, both mother and daughter learn to think more like the other, and, as a result, they each change for the better. Many of the supporting characters -- especially the clan chiefs and their warriors -- are broadly caricatured for the sake of humor; they brawl constantly, make rude noises, etc.
Violence & Scariness
There are several intense/scary scenes in Brave revolving around a giant, frightening bear; some of them may be too much for younger or more sensitive kids. The bear attacks King Fergus in the opening sequence (viewers learn that it tore off his leg; he has a wooden stump), and later it rages against Merida, Elinor, and the entire congregation of Scottish clansmen. Possible spoiler alert: Elinor's transformation into a bear is mostly funny, but in one scene that could upset younger kids, she becomes more bear than mother and growls menacingly at Merida. Young kids might also be frightened when the men (including Fergus) take arms against bear-Elinor and are set on killing her. The climactic battle between the bears and the clan gets very tense, especially when it looks like Merida or Elinor will be hurt. Some of the scenes with the witch may also be scary for kids -- she's mostly harmless, but her hut is spooky, and she comes off as creepy herself. The will o' the wisps are eerie and a bit ominous. The Scotsmen fight constantly, using both their bodies (hands, fists, teeth, feet) and weapons (swords, arrows, etc.) on their opponents.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Fergus and Elinor are an affectionate married couple; he smacks her on the bum, and, later, when she's naked under a sheet (nothing is seen below her neck), he stares at her until she reminds him that others are around, too. The men are naked under their kilts, and in a couple of scenes, animated naked rear ends (both of adult men and young boys) are briefly glimpsed. A housemaid has ample cleavage.
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Products & Purchases
Although there are no product placements in the actual film, Brave already has much merchandise available: dolls, costumes, apps, storybooks, a soundtrack, video games, apparel, and more.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The Scotsmen gather in the castle for a feast before it devolves into a brawl, and there are steins of drink, presumably some sort of mead or ale, but it's not referenced, and no one is represented as drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Brave is pretty scary for a "princess movie," especially for kids under 7 and/or those who are very sensitive to peril. Several intense sequences involve a large angry bear that attacks the main characters -- which are even more so when seen in 3-D -- and (possible spoiler alert) a possibly disturbing but mostly comical transformation of a mother into a bear. A moment when the mom-turned-bear temporarily forgets she's human and growls at her daughter could upset younger kids. There's also a lot of brawling among the Scotsmen, who use both weapons (arrows, swords, etc.) and their bodies (fists, teeth) on each other. The first Pixar movie to revolve around a female main character, Brave does have a strong message about family relationships and open communication between parents and kids (particularly mothers and daughters). There's no romance for Princess Merida, but you can expect a few jokes about men being naked under their kilts; a couple of scenes even include quick glimpses of naked cartoon bums belonging to men and three young boys. Although there are no product placements in the movie, there's a ton of Brave merchandise available, particularly aimed at girls. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This movie a great mother-daughter tale -- it's just not quite the warrior princess story you might have hoped for. There's still a lot to love about Brave. The animation is breathtaking -- particularly Merida's blazing red curls, which are so detailed that you can imagine touching them strand by mesmerizing strand. But there's also the lush green and blue landscapes, the dark and majestic interiors, the haunting light of the blue will o' the wisps luring Merida deeper into the forest. And for once, a princess story stays centered on the princess' personal development rather than her romantic prospects. Plus, the acting is superb, thanks to the mostly Scottish ensemble unleashing their heaviest brogues. Most voice actors record their parts separately, so it's remarkable how beautifully Thompson and Macdonald interact. The emotion between mother and daughter is remarkably genuine and believably fraught; even when Elinor is in bear form, she's still fussing at Merida to get her weapon off their makeshift dinner table.
The only problem with Brave is that it doesn't quite live up to Pixar's own record of originality and sophistication. There's nothing terribly out of this world about the story -- it's simple and sweet but not "never seen before" like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, or WALL-E. And Merida, for all of her virtues, is still very much a self-absorbed teen trying to find the easy answer to her problems (relying on a spell to change your mother's mind is a hilariously bound-to-fail idea). Is it leagues above most other animated films in terms of artistry? Yes. Is Merida a worthy alternative to the stereotypical princess? Absolutely. But this isn't among Pixar's best, and that's a tiny bit of a disappointment.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.