The story for this revisionist fairy tale, which promotes contemporary attitudes about parenting and gender equality, is less inspired than usual for Pixar, but the movie upholds the studio's high standard of computer animation.
The tone is uneven and more often morose than joyful. The pacing is slow and at times almost tedious. The end result is something that feels like it was put together from a jumble of Disney clichés tacked onto the skeleton of Beauty and the Beast.
Youngsters with a taste for adventure will no doubt overlook the movie's workmanlike outlines and applaud its spirited, self-reliant heroine, who proves to be as appealingly unruly as her tumble of Titian curls.
While co-directors Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell have successfully made a family action fantasy featuring a girl hero - a long-overdue revolution - the story is not as special as the princess inside it.
While the character of Merida answers Pixar's cultural critics emphatically - and offers young girls a spirited wild card to add to their gallery of satin-gowned Disney princesses - the studio hasn't imagined a vehicle worthy of her.
Although Brave is satisfying and spirited and laced with humor (haggis jokes, kilt jokes), it doesn't quite mark a return to form for Pixar following the digital house's disappointing 12th feature, Cars 2.
Turns out to be much less about the qualities that mark a heroine built to interest a 21st-century audience of girls, boys, and accompanying adults, and much more about the complexities of mother-daughter relations.
The animation studio's first film with a female protagonist, a defiant lass who acts as a much-welcome corrective to retrograde Disney heroines of the past and the company's unstoppable pink-princess merchandising.
Adding a female director to its creative boys' club, the studio has fashioned a resonant tribute to mother-daughter relationships that packs a level of poignancy on par with such beloved male-bonding classics as Finding Nemo.
A film that starts off big and promising but diminishes into a rather wee thing as it chugs along, with climactic drama that is both too conveniently wrapped up and hinges on magical elements that are somewhat confusing to boot.