‘Brave’: The Reviews Are In!

Pixar's first female-driven adventure leaves many satisfied, but doesn't quite meet the studio's storied standards, according to the critics.

Between “The Hunger Games” and “Marvel’s The Avengers,” 2012 is rapidly becoming the year of the archer — and another bow-wielder joins the fray this weekend in “Brave,” Pixar’s latest effort and first feature film led by a female protagonist.

“Boardwalk Empire” actress Kelly Macdonald supplies the voice of Merida, a princess who does everything possible to resist her fate in a male-driven medieval society. She does not want to be married off to some noble she doesn’t care about; she wants to pursue her own path, living freely with her treasured bow and arrow at her side. But circumstances eventually change for Merida, leading her down a path that even she couldn’t have envisioned for herself.

By many accounts, “Brave” continues Pixar’s trend of highly regarded flicks that please both adults and children alike — but not by all accounts. Some critics believe “Brave” doesn’t quite meet Pixar’s storied standards, resulting in a film that falls short of its potential. Keep reading for a selection of reviews for “Brave,” opening in theaters nationwide Friday (June 22).

The Story
“A strong-willed lass, Merida exasperates her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), with her pronounced lack of interest in daintiness, needlework, gentleman callers, and all other forms of stereotypical feminine activity. She charms her burly, good, but somewhat galumphy father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly, who else?), for the same reason. (She’s also a role model for her tiny triplet brothers, spunky mischief-makers with their own heads of matching ginger squiggles.) Merida’s passion is for the archery at which she excels — she loves loves loves the thrill of it. Still, as Mama continues to push her daughter toward betrothal to a suitable lord for the good of the kingdom, Merida pushes back, hard, until in her rebellion she finds a witch (Julie Walters) who can cast a spell to change her woeful female fate.” — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

Power of the Princess
“In addition to being fast, funny, and unpretentious, ‘Brave’ is a happy antidote to all the recent films in which women triumph by besting men at their own macho games, as if the history of male dominance is one of patriarchs suppressing females’ essential warlike nature. Merida wants nothing more than to control her own fate, her rage provoked by the refusal of her mother— — for whom duty and subservience are paramount — to see the world through her eyes. Why surrender her will to silly, drunken, endlessly combative men when there’s so much to see and do? Her boo-boo at least has the effect of giving her and her mother a common cause, which is certainly a more direct route to mutual understanding than tens of thousands of dollars of therapy.” — David Edelstein, New York

The “Brave” Look
“Many aspects of ‘Brave’ remind us, at a glance, why Pixar rules the American animation game. Production designer Steve Pilcher’s landscapes are nearly photo-realistic, but with a welcome touch of poetry; likewise, the director of photography for lighting, Danielle Feinberg, pours on the golden sunlight (and when it hits that red hair of Merida’s — wow!) but pays close attention to the shadows and the rough-hewn menace of Merida’s quest.” — Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune

An All-Too-Familiar Tale
“The good news is that the kids will probably love it, and the bad news is that parents will be disappointed if they’re hoping for another Pixar groundbreaker. Unlike such brightly original films as ‘Toy Story,’ ‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘WALL-E’ and ‘Up,’ this one finds Pixar poaching on traditional territory of Disney, its corporate partner. We get a spunky princess; her mum, the queen; her dad, the gruff king; an old witch who lives in the woods, and so on.” — Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times

The Final Word
” ‘Brave’ is gorgeous to look at — as usual, the 3D accentuates without being overbearing, and there are moments that offer some of the most photorealistic tableaux I’ve ever seen in an animated film — and features a strong script that avoids the third-act pitfalls that have plagued previous Pixar projects. Whether you’re a fan of great animation, or just jonesing for another arrow-slinging heroine until the next ‘Hunger Games’ sequel comes out, brave the crowds for this one.” — Alonso Duradle, The Wrap

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Check out everything we’ve got on “Brave.”

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Likes pizza, punch and pie. Dislikes the Chitauri. Find him on Twitter @roundhoward — like Ron Howard, but rounder.