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In ancient and rugged Scotland, the impetuous, independent princess Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) is a young aspiring archer, having been encouraged from a young age by her loving, larger-than-life father, King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly). Her mother Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson) has conscientiously schooled her daughter to be proficient in all things as the future Queen, but Merida rebels. When the King and Queen invite the surrounding clans to present their sons as suitors, Merida is desperate and finds a witch (Julie Walters), who grants her a spell - with devastating results.

Review by Louise Keller:
A grizzly bear playing charades is one of the funniest moments in this enchanting 3D Pixar animation set in the rugged Scottish highlands in which myths, traditions and matters of the heart are shaken like a cocktail. The bear is in fact the Queen, whose furry transformation comes about from a magic spell gone wrong, in this tale about a feisty Princess who challenges her fate. With its winning Pixar formula of superb animation, good storytelling and accessible characters, we are happily transported to a richly detailed Scottish setting with dramatic rocks, verdant hills and misty ambience. It is in that setting that the essence of the story about taking your fate in your hands and having the courage to follow your heart is revealed. My heart smiled as I watched this energetic, funny charmer of a film that the whole family will adore.

Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) has a spirit of her own: she is as untamed as the mop of red corkscrew curls that cascade helter-skelter down her back. After a lifetime of being schooled by her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) - to be knowledgeable, compassionate and strive for perfection - the final straw comes when suitors from different clans come jousting for her hand in marriage. With the echo of bagpipes still ringing in her ears, the rebellious Merida, whose proficiency in archery has always been encouraged by her father the King (Billy Connolly), jumps on her horse Angus and follows the glowing, magical will o'wisps into the forest. It is the old crone of a witch (Julie Walters) in a wood workshop filled with bear carvings who grants Merida the spell she seeks - to change her mother and her ideas about marriage.

Of course much is made of the Queen's transformation into a full grown grizzly (a bear wearing a crown is an incongruous sight) and there are funny scenes indeed as Merida encourages her to catch fish for her supper. (The bear only succeeds when a fish happens to jump into her open mouth as she stands aghast in a mountain stream.) The kicker to the bear-theme is that the King has long been obsessed about bears (he lost his leg in a bear attack years earlier). You can guess what is in store: the ridiculous, the bizarre and the hilarious merge as the bear charade scene plays out. There are more laughs to come from another transformation: this time it is Merida's triplet baby brothers who turn into baby bears. Shadows are cleverly used to exaggerate their size as the chaotic chase around the dark corridors of the castle takes place.

The star voice cast is excellent and the Scottish brogue delightful. While Billy Connolly's well known delivery may be recognisable (and he does an excellent job), Emma Thompson and Kelly Macdonald's voices are not, allowing the audience to believe in the characters more readily. The 3D component enhances but never overwhelms, leaving the film's heart intact as fate favours the brave and we are reminded of the unconditional love between mothers and daughters.

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(US, 2012)

VOICES: Emma Thompson, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, John Ratzenberger, Craig Ferguson

PRODUCER: Katharine Sarafian

DIRECTOR: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell

SCRIPT: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell, Irene Mecchi

EDITOR: Nicholas C.Smith

MUSIC: Patrick Doyle

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes



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