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Pixar's first heroine is 'Brave'

Stars Emma Thompson and Kevin McKidd talk about speaking Scottish in new animation "Brave".

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Visually and technically, Brave is pure Pixar in every exhilarating pixel – dazzlingly lush and thrillingly vivid, and that’s just the heroine’s hairdo.

Shame the story lacks quite the same inventive bounce and emotional lustre.

Pixar’s 13-th feature film introduces the hit-making animation studio’s first lead female character, a saucer-eyed warrior tween from medieval Scotland.

WARRIOR PRINCESS: Merida is voiced by Kelly Macdonald in the new Pixar animated film Brave, which opens today.

WARRIOR PRINCESS: Merida is voiced by Kelly Macdonald in the new Pixar animated film Brave, which opens today. Photo: Cindy Tran

Plucky Merida is the latest addition to Disney’s top-selling stable of cartoon princesses. But she is all tom-boy.

Feisty and fearless, the wee lass sports a towering, Rebekah Brooks-like explosion of flame-red curls and is voiced with a dove-like Celtic coo by Kelley Macdonald.

The headstrong daughter of warrior King Fergus (voiced by Billy Connolly), Merida would rather perfect her archery skills than learn to curtsey like a lady under the tutelage of her loving but stern mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson).

Brave

Brave

But she is destined to be married off to one of the sons of the other Highland clan leaders.

‘‘I don’t want my life to be over,’’ she declares to her mother in a William Wallace/Mel Gibson-esque flourish. ‘‘I want my freedom.’’

Of course it’s one thing to defy custom. It’s quite another to defy your mother.

The resulting battle of wills takes a dark and occasionally comic turn when Merida asks a whiskered witch (Julie Walters) to help change her mother and, therefore, alter her own fate.

Elinor’s transformation is exactly the kind of unexpected twist you might expect in a fairytale and only the very young will be surprised.

The resulting drama, danger and humour prove pretty conventional as Pixar narratives go, and the mother-daughter relationship deserves better.

In terms of plot, purpose, storytelling verve and poignancy, Brave falls short of the simple yet profound joys of Pixar’s most enchanting all-ages entertainments, Toy Story 3, Up and Wall-E.

It is full of fabulous fights and frights but the ideas advanced aren’t nearly as adventurous as our heroine. That the moral of the story requires spelling out in a voice-over confirms as much.

Connolly is fun as jolly giant Fergus, who has a peg leg and busted nose. Listen out also for US-based late-night TV talk show host Craig Ferguson as one of the blue-painted clan leaders.

Like How to Train Your Dragon and Disney’s over-caffeinated remake of Rapunzel in Tangled, Brave moves at an agreeable clip and most of the scary action and cheeky, kilt-hoisting antics hit a bullseye with under-10s.

And there’s majesty in the gorgeous 3D rendering of Scotland’s wild beauty, with swooping aerial images of craggy mountains, lush glens, lochs and mist-cloaked castles.

But Brave ultimately feels more Mickey Mouse than Finding Nemo.

Note: Be sure to arrive at your screening on time or you missing the exquisite, wonderfully imaginative short film La Luna, a fable about three generations of men whose magical night-shift work tidying the moon. It is told without words or discernible dialogue but charms with absolute precision.