I did look for the best deal, which meant the 10:30am showing so we could get the Early Bird rate (cheaper than matinee prices even), and we didn't buy any concession stand goodies this time to keep the cost down even more.
Anyway, I thought I'd share with you my thoughts about the movie and it's family friendliness, themes, etc., in case you want to go see it and are wondering what a regular(ish)-mama kind of view on it is. NOTE: There are limited spoilers below, so if you don't like any, don't read my review.
The main character is Merida. She is a princess with gorgeous, long, curly, red hair. I know it's animated, but it's enough to make anyone jealous! But anyway, she starts the movie as a darling, little child (with the same gorgeous hair). We get the idea that Merida is a bit of a nature girl, adventurous, a tomboy, tough, but still feminine. Many movie critics seem to be touting her as an outstanding female role model. Mostly because she's brave!
In many ways, I appreciate their point of view. This Disney-Pixar princess doesn't need a prince/man to complete her the way the Little Mermaid (Ariel) or others did. I definitely think that girls have far too many role models who are seeking romance in order to feel worthy and complete. I think Disney-Pixar is beginning to realize that and have been developing stronger female characters like Princess Tiana, for example.
However, I didn't really appreciate Merida's blatant disregard of her parents' wishes (mostly her mother's). She was not a very obedient child by any stretch of the imagination. But as the story progresses, she starts to see things a bit differently and she becomes more humble through her experiences. There is hope for her to continue being a role model to little girls in the audience, even if it's because of her imperfection. She does learn and grow as an individual through the course of the movie. That's all we can hope for any of us!
I can appreciate Merida, because in a lot of ways, I was like her. As a child and teenager, I thought I knew best. I was independent and tomboyish. I was often disobedient towards my own parents. Through my life experiences, I've been humbled and I can see more clearly that my parents meant well with the rules they had in place for me and the expectations they set.
I was not a princess living in the United Kingdom in days long past, however, so I never learned to shoot a bow and arrow, for example. I don't have bountiful locks of long, red hair either.
Here are the things I liked best about the movie:
- The movie is beautiful. The animation is well-made (like one has come to expect from Disney-Pixar) and at times, seems very realistic. The scenes are rich and colorful and the characters are detailed and natural in their movements.
- Merida is a likable character. She's imperfect, for sure, but the girls and boys I had with me in our group adored her alike. She's pretty and friendly enough for the girls to admire her and brassy enough for the boys to respect her.
- I liked the story. The movie doesn't seem to be getting great reviews from what I've read. Maybe people are expecting script-complexity found in movies rated PG-13 and up, I don't know. But this was a kids'/family movie and the plot seemed to keep five kids' attention (ranging in age from 5-11) the whole time and even had O clapping out loud at certain scenes. It kept my attention, too. My mind wasn't wandering off to things I needed to get done elsewhere, like sometimes happens to me while watching kid movies. It wasn't a waste of my time.
- The soundtrack was appropriate. I don't remember any moments when the music was disconnected from what was happening onscreen. I couldn't tell you the names of any specific songs -- in other words, it didn't seem like there was anything super trendy playing in the background (disclaimer: I did miss about a ten minute chunk of the movie early on when I had to take E to be changed and before she fell asleep for her nap). Overall, it didn't seem lewd or inappropriate.
- I liked the supporting characters. There were a lot of standouts in the "cast," but none of them were overbearing or obnoxious beyond their standard quirkiness. I loved the parents and their marriage relationship. I appreciated their different ways of interacting with their daughter (even if she didn't).
- There were also no particularly frightening villains, which seems unusual for the style of movie. There is a scary bear, but as his story unfolds, the audience begins to pity him. He is a victim of his own pride and lack of humility and his tale is almost presented as a secondary lesson within the movie. I liken him to "the Beast" in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, with regard to his level of scariness.
Things to consider before watching the movie with your children:
- A catalyst in the plot appears in the form of a jovial, yet little bit creepy witch. I'm not crazy about stories with a lot of witchcraft/wizardry and magic, because I think it can confuse kids who are not firmly rooted in their faith. The portion of the movie that includes potion-making and features the witch is fairly insignificant in the overall story. And though the consequences resulting from Merida's encounter with the witch continue throughout most of the story, the focus is on mending the relationship in order to break the spell, as opposed to using additional witchcraft/magic to fix things. I think if kids are aware of what the Bible says about witchcraft (a frequent discussion in our household), this movie opens up the topic for more discussion without overly confusing kids about what is right and wrong.
- There is a significant amount of violence. If you've ever seen the movie, Braveheart, with Mel Gibson, there is one supporting character in the movie, Brave, who sports similar blue warpaint on his face (he's a bit of comic relief in this movie). Though this family movie will never compare with the level of war violence detailed in the movie, Braveheart, there are several scenes that I worried might have been almost too violent for the five- and seven-year-olds in our group. They seemed to do okay (one bear-on-bear fight particularly inspired O to cheer and clap -- such a boy), so I'm going to pray that those images of fighting (the funny ones and the scarier ones) weren't the primary focus for mimicking and reenacting the film by the kids. On the bright side, there was no blood or gore in any of the violent scenes. Most of the violence fit the historical time and characters in the movie and did not seem gratuitous.
- There is some "humorous" nudity in the movie. Of course, it's all animated, but if parents are particularly concerned about this, I wanted to point it out. Most of it involves men's behinds (as they required the use and removal of their kilts, MacGyver-style, and apparently wore nothing under them) and the cleavage of a maid (she hides her key there and it is insinuated that one little boy dives in to retrieve said key, though this scene is not shown). Our children's favorite part of the whole movie was when Merida's three little brothers streak across the scene and we only see their animated backsides. They thought it was hilarious.
- I read in some critiques of the movie that there was lewd language. Maybe I'm too desensitized to this sort of thing, but truthfully, I didn't hear anything particularly raunchy. I reserve the right to change my opinion of this if we watch it again some day and suddenly my ears are more in tune to inappropriate words.
If my review still has you asking yourself if you should take your family to see Brave, here are a couple links for you as you make your decision:
I appreciate the site, Kids-in-Mind, for their thorough descriptions of particular subject matter and scenes that may offend some families. If you are looking for a specific Christian review of the movie, check out The Dove's Foundation site.
The other alternative for parents of young children or particularly protective parents of older children, is to see this rated PG movie for themselves prior to watching it as a family. Generally speaking, now that our children are seven and up, we choose to view movies rated PG as a family, even the first time, unless there is a specific concern brought up by one of the two review sites I've linked to above. This is not a flawless system, but it works for us.
We still preview PG-13 movies before showing our children, except S, who is legally able to see R-rated and NC-17 movies (although, we still discourage her from these). Many times, PG-13 has too many subject matters that are inappropriate for our kids depending on their particular sensitivities. In other words, there must be a good reason for allowing our children aged under 13 to see rated PG-13 movies. Usually, these exceptions fall under the category of historical movies. Our kids have seen the movie, Titanic, on DVD, but we fast-forwarded through some inappropriate scenes focused mostly on sex and nudity.
Mostly, I think it's important for parents to come up with a plan for what kinds of movies they will allow their children to see and that plan should be clear to the kids so they know what the rules are when they go to a friend's house. It's also important, like in most things, to keep communication open about these subjects, as well as challenging topics that do arise in movies they are allowed to see. We keep on talking to our kids and hopefully, they hear some of it.
If we simply protect and avoid every taboo subject, how will they know how to handle these things in the world around us? Communication is key.