Pixar returns to the movie theaters with Brave, its latest animated feature for both children and adults. This movie features magic, adventure, combat, comedy, and the movie studio's first female hero, er, heroine.

In medieval Scotland, Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) seems to have a pretty good life. She loves roaming the countryside on her horse Angus, practicing her archery and enjoying the natural wonders of the land. She loves her father Fergus (Billy Connolly), a joyful giant of a warrior who lost his leg to a giant bear, and her three mischievous young brothers. But, as with many teenage girls, Merida has a big problem: her mum.

Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) is always trying to prepare Merida for her duties as the future queen, from posture to etiquette. When Elinor surprises Merida with the news that Merida will have to marry the eldest son of one of the three other Scottish clans to keep the peace, Merida really rebels. After competing for her own hand, Merida follows the mystical will-o'-the-wisps to the home of a witch- wood carver (Julie Walters). Merida purchases a spell to change her mother, believing this will change her destiny. But as is so often the case in stories, the wish has a very unexpected result...

As with so many Pixar films, Brave is a delight. Visually, the movie is absolutely stunning, from the perky heroine's bright red hair to the beautiful Scottish landscape rendered via cgi. The movie is often funny (and, towards the end, pretty damn scary) and quite exciting as well. I would have liked the movie to spend more time after the curse than in the long setup, but the film manages to cover the testy relationship between mothers and daughters, the balance between personal freedom and royal duty, and the dangers of getting what you wish for. The voice talent is excellent, the animation is wonderful, and Brave is a terrific, entertaining movie. (And be sure to stick around through the credits for a bonus scene.)

Overall grade: A-

Reviewed by James Lynch

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