For grownups, this movie would be worth watching just to see Merida's hair, and the dark and wild and beautiful setting. For kids . . . I have my reservations.
Things you've probably heard elsewhere . . .
It has magic: Yes, but fairy tales do, and that's not an issue for me. As in The Princess and the Frog, appropriate consequences are shown for using magic (against your mother).
It's really scary: Yep. We watched it with the whole family and the kids (1.5-10) were pretty terrified during the bear fights. But I think it's good for kids to be scared by movies. It helps them to understand that feeling and cope with it in a low stakes situation, rather than confronting fear for the first time in a real life situation.
It's really sad: Yes again. Like any good Disney movie, it'll make your kids cry and cry and cry (Bambi, The Fox and the Hound, Up, I'm looking at you). I think that's fine too. See above.
None of those things are an issue for me.
My concerns were with the visceral and hurtful arguments between Merida and her mother Elinor, and the bold and spiteful (and public) disobedience Merida shows. I don't have teenage daughters yet, so honestly I don't know how that stage goes. I know I certainly gave my own mother a good deal of trouble. But regardless of how true Merida's feelings of rebellion are, I'm not sure I can make the case that it's good for my young children to witness them. The same goes for her disobedience. Unlike the situation in Tangled, when we can cheer Rapunzel's bravery as she struggles to shake off the yoke of her evil "mother's" distorted worldview, Elinor is a good queen and a loving mother who has always done what was right for her daughter. She does NOT deserve the treatment she receives from Merida. And I'm talking about even BEFORE the magic stuff starts.
And while I LOVE that Merida finally learns to love and respect and emulate her mother and to take responsibility for the consequences of her bad behavior, so does her mother learn that she and all the traditions of her people were wrong too, and Merida was right. Brave falls just to the right of center on the Girls Just Want to Have Fun scale of "Kids Are Right and Parents Are Wrong," the far right being The Lion King where Dad was all right all the time and the far left being The Little Mermaid where Ariel's dangerous and subversive disobedience earns her not only everything she wanted, but a humble bow from her Dad to go along with it.
Which isn't to say I'm an apologist for arranged teenage marriages. I just wish that the script had been written differently so we could focus on MERIDA learning the lessons she needs to learn. Queen Elinor deserves better than she gets. And "I'm competing for my OWN hand?" Please let us NOT go there. But you do have to feel sorry that apparently she'll have to marry one of those three eventually. Perhaps she can improve him. That usually goes well.
And, here's a question: In what way exactly is Merida ever "brave?" She's feisty, and spirited, and passionate, and sporty, but I honestly can't think of how the title fits at all. Rapunzel is brave. Merida is the one who's tangled. I'm just sayin'. The original title of the movie was The Bear and the Bow. Isn't that much more appropriate (not to mention cooler)?
What I liked: the marriage relationship between King Fergus and Queen Elinor is beyond adorable, and he is a pretty extraordinary character in every way himself. As I mentioned before, Merida's hair is just beautiful and worth every bit of all the trouble they went to to create it. I also loved her horse, Angus, and how the will o' the wisps were rendered, especially their sing-song childlike voices. Haunting and spooky and very very cute. The music was lovely and the scenery was breathtaking.
So basically, this is one I'm glad I saw and I'm okay with the kids having seen, but it's not going into high rotation around here. I have no desire to fast forward my daughters towards teenage rebellion with the expectation that all it takes is a good old fashioned magical poisoning to get mom to come around to your point of view.