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'Brave': A Parent's Guide to Disney/Pixar's Latest Movie

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"Brave" is Pixar's 13th feature film release and it strikes a perfect balance between the stunning visuals of Pixar films and the classic storytelling of Disney's quintessential princess movies. Modern parents will be delighted, however, to discover that "Brave" is a princess movie centering on a strong mother-daughter relationship, with nary a Prince Charming in sight.

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"Brave" focuses in on a plucky heroine named Merida, a brave and adventurous young woman who is slated to be betrothed in order to become the next queen. While she has a loving relationship with both of her parents, there is growing tension between Merida and her mother, who has been preparing her for life as a royal since she was a girl. The push and pull of adolescent individuation is portrayed well, with richly drawn characters and a struggle between tradition and a young girl's growing independence. While Merida makes choices that are clearly defiant of her parents, there are grave consequences to her impulsivity and pride, and she must ultimately resolve this with the help of her family.  "Brave" is a poignant story of love, loyalty, miscommunication and ultimately, forgiveness.

"Brave" may be considered by many to be the first feminist princess movie. Merida does not pine for a prince to come to her rescue, and solves her own problems without the aid of a suitor.  While her father is clearly a strong presence in her life, it is the strength and wisdom of the women in the family that takes center stage in the movie. "Brave" features a strong marriage, loving parents, and a big sister who cares for her little brothers.

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I took all four of my children to see the movie (ages 3, 5, 5 and 7) and all of them were thoroughly engrossed for the duration of the film.  While I expected that my daughters would love the movie, my sons really enjoyed it as well. Even though the plot centers around a female heroine, there are plenty of things in this movie to appeal to boys... there is sword-fighting, archery and plenty of action. My kids and I give it a hearty thumbs up.  But before you buy your ticket, you may need to contemplate your child's maturity level and whether or not they are old enough for some of the film's scarier themes. I'm going to try to do my best to break down the areas of concerns that parents might have without giving away any spoilers.

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Supernatural/Scary Themes

There were several frightening scenes throughout the movie, most of them involving bears attacking humans. A human loses a limb to a bear (this is not shown, but learned). Several humans are attacked and the growling bear proves to be quite a frightening presence on the screen. My kids were scared, but not so scared that they wanted to leave. I would imagine that kids who tend to be overly fearful or anxious may struggle with these scenes.

There are some supernatural elements in the movie. Some fairy-like spirits called Will-O'-The-Wisps provided clairvoyant guidance. There was a witch, but she looked and acted more like a confused grandma than a traditional evil witch, and certainly wasn't scary. Spells were cast that affected the characters in negative ways, causing them to behave in ways outside their character.

Violence

Humans are hunting bears with intent to kill. A bear kills and eats several fish, though these scenes are humorous rather than gory. There is talk of war, and several scenes of grown men fighting each other -- depicted as more humorous roughhousing than violence.

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Action

There is intense action for much of the second half of the movie, with several main characters in peril and risking death. This kept my boys engaged in the movie, but could prove stressful for small children.

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Language

I did not note any bad words, cursing or questionable phrases in the movie.

Nudity

There is a scene in which a grown man "moons" another man, and another scene in which a group of grown men lose their kilts and are standing with bare bottoms shown.

Moral themes

I think most parents will appreciate the moral themes in the movie. Merida struggles with issues of pride, rebellion and selfishness, and must overcome these tendencies to resolve conflict. While she wants to pursue her own interest, she also comes to learn that she needs to consider her family and community in her decision-making as well.

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In my opinion, this movie is appropriate for most children. While there are some frightening scenes, the scary elements in this movie involved realistic animals as opposed to monsters or supernatural creatures. I would enthusiastically recommend this movie to families with children of all ages. I think it will appeal most to girls, but I also think the plot and action of this movie will keep even teen and tween boys interested. I also believe this movie could spark some incredible conversations between teen girls and their moms.

I'm thrilled that Disney has given us a princess with two engaged parents and a lot of spunk.  She's a fantastic role model for young girls. "Brave" opens in theaters June 22nd.