What if you’d been told your whole life that you were destined for something you didn’t want? Worse yet, something you hated with almost every fiber of your being. How far would you go to change it?
King Fergus and Queen Elinor (voiced by Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson, respectively) have four children. Their triplet sons Hubert, Harris, and Hamish, and there oldest, a daughter, named Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald). Before her brothers were born Merida (Macdonald) bore witness as a bear attacked her family and took her father’s leg. Subsequent to the attack, Merida, much to her mother’s dismay, has grown into a free spirit who rejects her mother’s influence. This doesn’t stop her mother from offering tips as to how a princess must behave on a near constant basis, however. And when Merida hears the ancient tale of a prince who broke off from his duty and caused his kingdom’s downfall, she rejects it without a thought. So, even with her daughter’s objections, the Queen holds a contest for the first-born sons of nearby allied clans. The winner will receive her daughter’s hand. As the first-born of her clan, Merida competes and wins, causing a rift that is exacerbated when Merida destroys a tapestry and the Queen retaliates by throwing Merida’s bow in the fire. Merida flees to the forest in anger and follows a will o’ the wisp to a cabin. The old woman inside first insists that she is a wood carver but changes her tune once Merida offers a family amulet in trade for the witch’s services. The witch gives Merida a cake and tells her that it will change her mother, leaving out a few minor details as to the nature of that change and telling her only that the spell becomes permanent after the second sunrise.
Kelly Macdonald is tragically underrated as an actress. I first saw her in Two Family House, an independent film released in 2000 and then in the 2005 BBC film The Girl in the Café. She had some recent success thanks to Boardwalk Empire, but nowhere near what she deserves, in my opinion. She does a great job as Merida, and I feel similarly about the job Connolly does voicing King Fergus. Thompson does well, but the role doesn’t have anywhere near the same number of lines, for obvious reasons. The story is highly entertaining, as is the music. I will say that the ultimate consequence of the main character’s actions leave a little something to be desired. Still, a great time.