In truth the film is far more influenced by Disney, which owns Pixar, and Merida has much in common with recent Disney heroines, being a feisty young woman who refuses to be married off to one of an unimpressive trio of suitors for the sake of a political alliance.
Not only is Merida smarter than any of her prospective husbands, the Titian-tressed dynamo is a better horsewoman and far more lethal with a bow, traits which endear Merida to her father, Fergus (Billy Connolly), but enrage her mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson).
Her passion for independence creates the movie’s central conflict, of course, and lends itself to the kind of mother-daughter relationship that is rarely explored in the universe of Disney movies.
Elinor is simply a mother who believes that Merida will be best served by observing the clan’s traditional mores.
When she is accidentally turned into a bear by a magical spell sought from a witch by Merida, the lack of communication between generations is made crystal-clear.
“I don’t speak bear,” announces Merida in response to one of Elinor-bear’s growls, but the supercilious teenager is forced to fall back on the primal language of love in order to save Elinor-bear from being slaughtered.
The plot is less tightly woven than we’ve come to expect from Pixar, but the animation is superb, and the central figure of Merida makes for an exhilarating heroine.
Ted (16s) features a very cute teddy bear who came to life one magical Christmas when friendless young John Bennett wished for a real buddy to play with.
These days John (Mark Wahlberg) is a thirty-something slacker who prefers to lounge around on a couch doing a bong with Ted (voiced by Seth McFarlane) than do the right thing by his long-suffering girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis).
McFarlane is the creator of the hilariously irreverent Family Guy TV series (the show is referenced here), although it’s fair to say that the humour isn’t for the faint of heart.
Here McFarlane takes the same approach as the makers of Bad Santa (2003), as an ostensibly adorable teddy bear swears, smokes and screws his way through life, aided by his human alter ego.
It’s genuinely laugh-out-loud at times, but beneath the potty-mouthed rants is a fable about the American male’s extended ‘adulescence’ and his inability to mature beyond the teenager’s desire for instant gratification. Wahlberg does exceptionally well acting against a teddy bear, the animation of Ted is excellently done, and Mila Kunis copes neatly with the thankless task of coming between a man and his potsmoking bear.
A superhero in the bombastic The Dark Knight Rises, Christian Bale stars as a rather more modest, flawed and ultimately interesting hero John Miller in The Flowers of War (16s), a mortician plying his trade in China in 1937 when the Japanese army arrives and lays waste to Nanking. Arriving at Winchester Cathedral to bury a priest, Miller dons the dead man’s vestments to protect a church full of convent girls as the Japanese soldiers rape and pillage their way through the city.
Yimou Zhang’s film, based on Geling Yan’s novel, errs at times on the side of sentimentality, but for the most part it’s a powerful, harrowing meditation on the nature of heroism and self-sacrifice.
Yimou Zhang’s eloquently brutal film transcends its metaphors to offer a riveting account of grace under pressure.
Another unusual relationship is explored in Ann Hui’s Hong Kong-set A Simple Life (PG), in which Ah Tao (Deannie Yip), who has spent her entire adult life serving the same family as a maid, suffers a stroke.
Her film producer employer Roger (Andy Lau) is a busy man, but Hui’s story has Roger gradually learning to push back against the limits of his compassion, becoming the son Ah Tao never had.
Gentle in tone, and unusually short on conflict, A Simple Life is remarkable for the quality of the lead performances.