Directed by Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman
This is the least like Pixar that I have ever seen one of their movies. A massive improvement over last year's Cars 2 (which was something of an abomination that I found impossible to sit all the way through), Brave still doesn't quite stand up to the rest of their catalog -- with the additional notable exception of A Bug's Life. Fans of Disney, especially, should be pleased, as both in tone and content this movie seems far more like their work than Pixar. I don't believe this to be a particularly bad thing, but I feel it's worth noting.
The visuals are, of course, incredible. From the realistic landscapes to the finely-detailed individual hairs on the heroine's head, this movie has wonderful animation. In this way, Brave feels very much like Pixar's work, meeting every standard they have set in terms of pure visual excellence. Even if you find certain aspects of the movie flawed or useless (more details on that coming soon), you should at least be able to appreciate the brilliant work the animators put into producing a beautiful looking movie.
The voice-work is quite good, Macdonald and Connolly being particular standouts. Using actual Scottish voice actors for several of the lead roles was an excellent choice, one that could have ended poorly had they instead hired actors with ingenuine accents. To me, it's decisions like this that set Disney/Pixar movies above the rest; few animated movies anymore feature their level of attention to detail. My one complaint in this vein would be their sporadic use of more contemporary music during montage sequences that felt very out of place, but this is easily forgiven.
Now, onto my major complaint with this movie: the second act. The first 30-40 minutes are a brilliant set-up to a potentially great story. The characters are interesting and the scenery is breathtaking, but the path they choose to take with the story during the following 15-20 minutes is quite lackluster. It does pick back up after a while, but during this brief segment I found myself in awe of the uninspired direction the film had taken. To avoid spoiling any of the events that take place, let me simply make this observation: Animals aren't inherently funny. This particular segment of the movie, in my humble opinion, only goes to prove that.
In conclusion, this movie isn't phenomenal, but it's still quite good. There are a few annoyances along the way, but the movie's (generally) good sense of humor, gorgeous scenery, and strong voice-work make it quite enjoyable. And I imagine younger audiences might find the many instances of animal humor at least mildly amusing, so keeping in mind the intended audience of the movie, I'm willing to cut it some slack.