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Brave (2012) - Movie Review for Parents

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Brave
Photo © Disney/Pixar

Bottom line: Brave presents an epic adventure story in a culturally and visually rich setting that will captivate audiences of all ages. The movie contains some perilous scenes that could be very frightening for young children, as well as some instances of rude behavior.

MPAA Rating: PG, for some scary action and rude humor
Guide age recommendation: 5+
Genre: Animated/Adventure/Comedy
Runtime: Approx. 95 minutes
Studio: Disney/Pixar
Release Date: June 22, 2012

Brave - Overview

When the good Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson) deems it time for her daughter Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) to marry, it is decided that a competition for the young princess' hand will be held. Not wanting to marry, Merida enters the competition on her own behalf. Calling upon the great skills she has learned from her brave and boisterous father King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly), Merida wins the competition, angering her mother and offending the lords of the land.

Merida and her mother have a terrible fight, and the princess tears off into the woods on the back of her trusty horse Angus. In a mysterious stone circle, she encounters the magical will-o'-the-wisps, who lead her to an eccentric witch (voice of Julie Walters). The witch grants Merida her heart's desire, but the wish comes with unintended consequences. If Merida is not able to make things right, her life and the lives of her family could be tragically changed forever.

MeridaPhoto © Disney/Pixar

Brave - Guide Review for Parents

A fascinating story set in the culturally and visually rich world of the Scottish Highlands, Brave delivers on every level. Providing a solid foundation for the story is a conflict between Queen Elinor -- one of those moms who stresses morning to night making sure everything is perfect (she's the medieval mom who made all the other moms feel inferior) -- and Merida, her willful and spirited teenage daughter. With her fiery personality, zeal for life and hunger for adventure, Merida brings a wonderful passion and complexity to the story, while Elinor brings a refined elegance and a sense of honor and duty.

Predictably, a conflict between two such strong personalities results in some extremely heated moments, with Merida yelling things like, "You are a beast" and "I never want to be like you!" While these scenes may make parents cringe, the story progresses as the characters go through some difficult times and are changed through their experiences.

Surrounding the core story is the beautifully rugged setting and flavorful Scottish culture. From the kilt-wearing lords to the bagpipe music and traditional Highland games, this movie oozes with Scottish charm. Kilts, or lack thereof, ahem, are also the "butt" of a couple of funny jokes in the movie that probably earned the "rude humor" descriptor from the MPAA. Add to all of that an adorably mischievous set of prankster triplets, a bunch of brawling lords, and Scottish sayings like "jiggery pokery," and you've got quite an amusing mix, which brings a delightful balance to the intense sequences of peril and action.

Some of these scenes of peril could be very frightening to very young children. I put an age recommendation of 5 years on this movie, however it really depends on how your young child handles peril in movies. My four-year-old tensed up during scenes when the characters were being growled at and attacked by the ferocious demon bear, but she loved the action, while my seven-year-old cowered in her daddy's lap during those scenes. For a more detailed description of possibly frightening or offensive content, see the overview below. And, if you want to really get into the movie and help your kids learn more about Scotland and other elements from the movie, check out these Brave-related activities for kids and families.

Brave - Content Overview

*May contain spoilers.

  • Violence (Extreme): Brave contains both comical, slapstick violence -- such as brawling lords fighting with weapons; tweaking each others noses, ears and chests; headbutting each other, and more -- as well as scenes with intense peril that could be frightening to young children. Most of these intense scenes involve snarling, growling black bears that attack ferociously. While we do not see anyone get terribly injured or killed in the movie, we are told that the demon bear bit off King Fergus' leg. Children may be very frightened or worried for characters who are being attacked by the bears, or by the angry mob of weapon wielding men who attack without realizing they are attacking a disguised loved one.
  • Scary Scenes (High): See scenes listed under "violence." Kids may also be slightly frightened or unsettled by the mystical, magical scenes in which Merida follows the ghostly wisps or encounters the explosive potion-making witch.
  • Sex/Nudity (Medium): The movie contains a couple of scenes where men or children's bear bottoms are shown (all played for laughs). One lord moons his fellow lords (we only see this from the front, so nothing explicit is shown. When King Fergus realizes that his wife is naked under a blanket, he stares at her for a minute and then tells the other people around to avert their eyes. The queen and king kiss, which is gross in the opinion of their daughter.
  • Drugs and Alcohol (Low) There is a discussion about raiding the King's cellar, and he indicates everyone should only get a small glass. We assume for some sort of alcoholic beverage, but that is never stated or shown.
  • Language (Low): A few insulting words or phrases like "shut it!" are used. Many of the insults use Scottish terms that most kids would be unfamiliar with.
  • Disrespectful/Imitative Behavior (Extreme): The triplet brothers play pranks such as tying their father's shoe to the table leg and cutting a dozing guys mustache. They also gobble down as many sweets as they can steal. Merida yells and screams at her mother. She goes off into the woods on her own and consults a witch who performs all sorts of magic. The lords and their clans break into brawls over every disagreement. Kids may try to imitate some of the sword fighting and other use of weapons such as spears and bow and arrows.
Merida, a Bear, and a WispPhoto © Disney/Pixar

  • Sad/Unsettling Scenes (High): Merida and her mother get into some pretty intense fights, but scenes where they are struggling or it seems they may lose each other are sad and could be disturbing to children.

Movie Topics and themes to discuss:

  • Merida and her mother have some bitter fights. What could they each do to resolve their conflicts more effectively? The film especially brings out the point the Merida and her mother do not take the time to truly listen to each other.

  • The movie contains a lot of mystical and magical elements. Kids may have questions about magic, spells, destiny, fate, and ghosts.

  • At the heart of the conflict is Merida's impending betrothal. Kids may have questions about marriage, betrothal, arranged marriages, and love.

Brave - Bonus Features

The Brave Blu-ray combo packs contain a wealth of bonus features including the adorable Pixar short La Luna, which that alone makes the Blu-ray purchase worth it compared to just streaming the movie. But there's also several other features that add value to the title and are fun for kids and families, as well as being interesting and even educational. Immerse your family in the world of old Scotland with features about the mystical setting of the movie, the Scottish language and more. Bonus features also include extended scenes, an alternate opening and an audio commentary version of the movie.

Disclosure: The studio provided a free screening of this movie for review purposes as well as travel and expenses for press trip and interviews. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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