There are true moments of authentic enchantment early in the film as we are introduced to the very non-princess-y Disney princess Merida, the apple of her Scottish clan king father’s eye and the bane of her queen mother’s existence. Early sequences beautifully illustrate the joy Merida experiences from interacting with her horse Angus (who, by the way, was my favorite character in the film) and from exploring the beautiful countryside. And then there is her quirky, medusa-like, character-of-its-own red hair…how many animators did THAT take…and will her tresses be their own thrill ride at DisneyWorld soon? Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly do wonderful voice work as the royal couple, and Kelly MacDonald has a sparky, sparkly, yet soothing voice perfect for animation.
HOWEVER, once the film ventures into spooky/witch cauldron/floating purple sprite territory, I tuned (or should that be tooned?) out. I just didn’t care. I didn’t know why Merida and her mom were THAT irritated with each other, nor why the whole kingdom is phobic about bears or anything that possibly resembles a bear. AND this is probably where I will lose you, dear reader, but the whole affair seemed more DreamWorks (or Tarantino) than Disney: kilt jokes (and what may or may not be under them), fathers losing their legs, and animal trophies and hatchets as zany “comic” props seemed wildly out-of-place, ugly, mean-spirited, and jarring. But again, I could just be cranky and old…though I would argue this film (like the disappointing Cars 2 before it, and what appears to be a clunky feature in the upcoming Monsters University) does not have the warmth, whimsy, or joy of any of Pixar’s previous offerings.