"I'd rather die than be like you," the barely adolescent heroine of Pixar's 13th feature roars to her mother, perhaps the most radical line ever uttered in a Disney production — and one that highlights just how different Brave's heroine's predicament is from those of her recent screen sistren. Where fellow bow-and-arrow expert Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games and the titular princess of Snow White and the Huntsman are each one point in love triangles, Merida, resolutely asexual, is nonetheless entangled in the most complicated love- and hate-filled dyad of all: that between a teenage daughter and her mother. With her flame-colored ringlets, Merida looks like a wee Rebekah Brooks, maybe a pint-size Florence Welch, but despite these resemblances, she remains an original: Brave, set in the Scottish Highlands in the 10th century, is the animation studio's first film with a female protagonist, a defiant lass who acts as a much-welcome corrective to retrograde Disney heroines of the past and the company's unstoppable pink-princess merchandising. Of course, Merida's insurrectionary spirit can last only so long in a House of Mouse vehicle; the majority of Brave's running time after her uprising is devoted to restoring the sanctity of the nuclear family after her wish to be free from tradition and arranged marriages goes wrong. Still, despite some distracting, convoluted plot points — there's too much tomfoolery among the King, the lords from the other clans, and their scions, perhaps to broaden the film's appeal to boys — Brave is, well, brave.
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