updated 06/26/2012 AT 1:00 PM ET
•originally published 06/26/2012 AT 1:45 PM ET
A lead character who’s not all that likeable until the movie’s almost over? Well now, that is brave. It’s also not a terrific idea.
Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is petulant, snotty and irresponsible – in other words, a teenager. But the archery-loving Scottish princess also lacks empathy and is cruel to her fiercely traditional mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), and that’s harder to swallow. Worse, though, is Brave’s nutty central plot twist.
The spoiler-lite gist is that after visiting a witch (a kicky Julie Walters) in hopes of avoiding marriage to one of the dorky sons of a nearby clan, Merida leaves with a darkly magical charm that sends her on a life-altering quest.
The journey provides some of the film’s prettiest scenes, and the character design, like the voice talent, is flawless. (Merida’s auburn tumbleweed of a mane is wondrous.) But I couldn’t help but wish that the film had as much depth as those expertly rendered corkscrews. The story of a medieval lass aching to control her own life doesn’t need witchy nonsense to be compelling. It already is.