Pixar’s latest is a visual masterpiece. It’s lush and stunning and worth every bit of the extra admission cost for the 3-D animation.
Not that it’s perfect. The heavy Scottish brogue will be a strain for some folks to understand easily. The little heroine, Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is so headstrong that she nearly destroys her family, but seems only reluctantly repentant, making her something less than winsome. And the ancient Celtic culture is imbued with a strange kind of magic involving will-o-wisps and a witch and a talking apparition and a Stonehenge-type ruin that can take on mystical qualities to break evil spells. Anybody who wants all that fractured mythology and listless legend sorted out and explained is going to leave a bit frustrated.
The basic conflict involves the princess Merida, a tomboy who loves riding her horse and shooting her bow and arrow (at targets, not hunting game), now reaching the age when she needs to be betrothed. She thinks this is a terrible idea, and fails to understand the political importance for her father, the king, who’s trying to hold together a flimsy tribal alliance, and also poutingly resists all attempts by her doting mother to teach her manners and how to act dignified, like a princess in training to become a queen. She’s also impatient with the campfire stories and legends that comprise their Celtic culture, failing to grasp that legends may not be technically historical, but still contain important truths. (This is also true for biblical interpretation, but of course that’s not mentioned here.)
Marida’s intransigence nearly wrecks the whole kingdom, but in the end she gets to keep her feistiness and claim her heritage even while she grows up – just a little.
Yes, we have a new Disney princess, who will undoubtedly be marketed as vigorously as her predecessors. But it will be interesting to see how many little girls identify with the fiery, quick-tempered redhead who stumbles into trouble so easily. But we like her because she’s brave. And inspires others around her to be “Brave” as well.
Ronald P. Salfen is minister of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving,