Redheads finally get their own hero in the form of a feisty Scottish princess with a mass of wild, ginger-colored curls.
From her infancy, Merida (voice by Kelly Macdonald) has been groomed for the role of a royal by her mother, the stately Queen Elinor (voice by Emma Thompson). But Merida chaffs under the imposed restrictions of etiquette and embroidery skills. She prefers to race through the woods shooting arrows at targets suspended along the path. The clash of ideals between parent and child peaks when Merida discovers she is about to be betrothed to the man who wins an archery competition.
To be fair, the trio vying for her hand is the most unsuitable bunch of suitors ever assembled and only by sheer dumb luck does one of them manage to hit the bull’s eye. However, Merida isn’t about to let a fluke determine her future. Defying her mother’s orders, she fires off an arrow that neatly splices the winning shaft into pieces. The rebellious act results in a war of words that sends Merida fleeing into the woods.
There, in the dark recesses of the forest, she stumbles upon a woodcarving witch (voice by Julie Waters) who supplies her with a potent spell. In moment of impetuosity, Merida uses the magic charm on her mother. (This kind of impulsiveness is what gives redheads a reputation for having hotheaded tempers.) Unfortunately, the consequences for her act are unbearable, but to undo it will take more than a steady aim and sure shot.
With three rowdy little brothers and a rather ineffective father (voice by Billy Connolly), she and her mother are the powerhouses in this female-centric film. And while the tension in their relationship is one other moms and girls may relate to, the threats aimed at these main characters and the frequent use of weapons may be too intense for younger viewers. As well, the film contains several frightening scenes played out on the big screen in 3D splendor. To offset the scary action, the script includes some animated male buttock nudity and the unruly antics of Merida’s younger siblings (one of whom dives into the ample bosom of a housemaid to retrieve a key).
Merida may be Pixar’s latest addition to the Disney stable of princesses, but she is far spunkier than the original fairytale royals. She also isn’t waiting around for a Prince Charming to whisk her away. This storyline reflects a far more contemporary take on female independence where women decide not only whom they will marry, but if. While that is a great step forward in Merida’s mind, it doesn’t happen until both this mother and daughter learn the value of listening.