Brave is a big budget Hollywood animated children’s film, very conventional, very mainstream. It’s well-made for what it is, but there’s little if anything special or memorable about it.
A Scottish princess is informed by her parents that it is time for her to marry. She’s not crazy about the idea. An archery contest is held for suitors from all the nearby kingdoms. Trying to escape her fate on a technicality, she enters the competition herself and wins (this is Movieland and she’s female, so actually it goes without saying she’d win), which she interprets to mean she doesn’t have to marry any of them.
That doesn’t get her parents off her back, so she runs away into the woods. With the help of a witch she meets there, she gets some magic cake that’s supposed to get her mother to lay off the marriage idea. Actually what it does is turn her mother into a bear. The bear mostly knows it’s her mother and has that same personality, but gradually it becomes more bearlike. She’s told that unless she unlocks the secret of how to turn her mother back, she’ll end up fully a bear.
In the end of course everyone lives happily ever after, and it turns out that it’s a good thing for women to be empowered and to make their own decisions about things like when and whom to marry.
There are kid movies that appeal to kids, and there are kid movies that have plenty of tidbits to entertain adults—snarky things, pop culture references, etc.—that younger kids especially won’t get but also won’t be bothered by not getting because they won’t even be aware of them. The former are the movies that parents sit through out of duty to make their kids happy, and the latter are the ones that they themselves are glad they had an excuse to see. The latter would include Shrek certainly, and probably Despicable Me and The Incredibles.
Nowadays almost all of the major kids movies will have at least some of that hipness to them, so really we’re talking about a matter of degree. But I would put this film closer to the kid end of the scale. That is, if your kids consistently enjoy heavily marketed, mainstream animated movies, they’ll almost certainly like this one. Meanwhile there’s some, but really not very much, material that accompanying adults might get a kick out of. (The witch character is pretty good, for instance.)
The moral of the movie, as I understand it, actually has some admirable complexity to it. I believe it’s saying that it is valuable to stand up for yourself and what you believe in, but that it is also valuable to safeguard the bonds with your loved ones, and that in life you have to try to balance these.
In fiction, especially that aimed at kids, you don’t really have to balance them, because if you do the right thing you get both—the princess ends up not having to marry against her wishes, and she also repairs the rift with her parents—but in any case I think that’s the message: Be true to yourself and don’t back down when you’re right, but at the same time don’t do so in an antagonistic way that costs you a treasured relationship.
In summary, Brave is an unobjectionable movie, somewhat entertaining, especially for kids, with a nice message.