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Whatever Dreamworks can do, Pixar can do better. It’s been a game of ping-pong for these major animation studios, who seem to be constantly trying to out-animate each other. In their latest battle, Brave vs. How to Train Your Dragon, it seems that Dreamworks may have just clinched it from Pixar, whose work has been slightly less than perfect of late.

Brave tells the story of Princess Merida, a reluctant young woman whose ancient custom would have her give up her independence without a say in the matter. When Merida is granted a wish, she is tasked with restoring peace to the kingdom by undoing a beastly curse, armed with her bravery and archery skills.

It’s more than just coincidence that Dreamworks and Pixar should have two movies that resemble one another and arrive in quick succession. How to Train Your Dragon features a tribe of “Scottish” warriors in a coming-of-age animated fantasy adventure about a young teenager with an overbearing parent figure, who is forced to grow up by confronting a dangerous creature and coming to terms with the consequences of their actions. It’s the same plot outline as Brave!

The themes and story lines mirror each other to the point that you wouldn’t be surprised if these animation companies shared the same creative department or have a corporate espionage case pending. How to Train Your Dragon starred a young boy, dealt with his relationship with his father and featured dragons… and Brave makes it look like Pixar have just added a new skin.

Both films have loads of heart, channel the emotional undercurrent of the story and present a funny take on an age-old story about parent-child dynamics. While the gender of the main protagonist in each film is a complete opposite, they’ve essentially created a brother and sister film. Dreamworks may not have the pixel precision of Pixar, but their trademark feel good belly laughs outweigh them in this instance.

Brave stars the voice talents of Kelly MacDonald as Merida, Billy Connolly as Fergus and Emma Thompson as Elinor. Each actor has a firm grip on their character and the charm to deliver on performance. They’re supported by a range of hilarious sideshow characters, who would’ve been right at home in Gaul alongside Asterix and his tough Roman-eating villagers.

From Merida’s dazzling red hair to the fantasy landscapes, Pixar have created a beautiful tapestry of light, shape and colour, once again showing why they are in a league of their own when it comes to CG animation. Apart from echoes of Princess Mononoke in some elemental forest beings and some parallels with Asterix, it’s a breath of fresh air.

The writing is strong as per usual and apart from a few modern day inferences, the tale of Brave feels fresh and original, as if derived from the Brothers Grimm. The pacing is good and Brave moves along swiftly, yet there there could have been a stronger connection with Merida, whose complex character isn’t easily likable. She’s the antithesis of most Disney princesses and comes across as a little distant, arrogant and moody. Then again, this could be the essence of Brave - with Pixar carrying a less than likable main character to carve out a picture of strong-willed feminine independence.

Brave’s strongest feature is its emotional core. The central mother-daughter relationship will undoubtedly resonate with many girls and mothers, who have been there, and it would be a good idea to take some tissues. The spirit of the adventure is upbeat, so Brave isn’t a tearjerker or manipulative, it’s just heartwarming and touching at times. If you loved How to Train Your Dragon, you’ll find an equally entertaining and heartwarming adventure in Brave.

The bottom line: Moving

8.50/10 ( 2 Votes )
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