Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Precious, plucky princess

Merida isn’t like the early Disney princess at all, that’s pretty evident since “Brave’s” first trailer. The firstborn child of a kindly king and a duty-bound mother, she values her freedom, always poised to hit her targets with well-aimed arrows. The new heroine sports unruly red hair, rides like the wind, and distances herself from all things prim and proper.

Much like most female characters from more recent reimagining of fairy tales, Merida is independent, and doesn’t need a man to rescue her. That becomes a problem, of course, when her mother announces that she has to pick from three suitors as part of her royal duty.

“Brave,” preceded by the cute, sparkly “La Luna” short, joins the modern gallery of animated features with princesses that break the mold. Merida’s more feminist mindset butts heads with the Queen’s focus on traditional rites, which creates the main conflict, and resolving that involves serious skewing of family bonds. It’s a tough, tricky situation that the film doesn’t tiptoe around.

Thankfully, the process is imaginative enough; the visually vivid film doesn’t devolve into a soapy emo-fest about a failing mother-daughter rapport. In true Disney tradition, the family gets into more complicated, more fantastical imbroglios, aside from their obvious predicament.

The message might be understood more by older kids and older viewers regardless of gender, but “Brave” successfully transmits it, un-muddled. It’s something to ponder over, what with lingering attitudes hereabouts that still favor the constricting, limiting ideas of yesteryear. Merida may not be the first princess to express independence, but the character and her story matter, inspiring with attainable feats and inherent bravery.

“Brave” will be in Metro Manila cinemas starting Aug. 1.

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