Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. Voices of Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters PG cert, general release, 100 min

It’s no classic, Pixar’s latest animation is a gorgeous and funny princess adventure with a properly Scottish female lead, writes DONALD CLARKE

THEY MAY ALL live in houses built from gold bars, but you still have to feel a little sorry for the good people at Pixar. After films such as Up and Toy Story, anything less than a classic seems like a disappointment.

The studio bounces back from the genuine turkey that was Cars 2 with this gorgeously hewn, often very funny princess adventure set in a version of the Scottish Highlands romantic enough to make Sir Walter Scott seem like Irvine Welsh.

Those of us able to make out the image despite the predictably awful, infuriatingly murky 3D projection – see the flat version, I beg you – will celebrate the gorgeously verdant and convincingly damp backgrounds. The characters are powered by a class of kinetic energy that seems genuinely fleshy and organic. The Jockwhackery (is that the word?) is not allowed to exceed EU-dictated levels of national stereotyping.

What’s not to like? Well, the magical subplot feels a little thrown together and perfunctory. The film goes to the trouble of introducing a fairly impressive witch and then allows that character to vanish from the story. The picture, though exciting and dazzling, doesn’t have any serious emotional punch.

So, yes, Brave is easily the best animated feature of the year so far. But it’s not a masterpiece. How dare they? Boo! Boo!

Set up a damp hill and down a wooded glen, Brave concerns the troubled goings on of a clan headed by the bluff, good-natured King Fergus (Billy Connolly, one of a consistently brilliant voice cast). Merida (Kelly Macdonald), his wild, red-haired daughter, is coming of age and, as is the tradition, he arranges a competition to win her hand in marriage.

Much has been made of the fact that the protagonist – Pixar’s first female lead – refuses to bow down to the patriarchy and chooses to light out for the territory. In truth, it would, in this era, have been faintly shocking if anything else had happened. But it’s fair to say that Merida proves a much grainier character – sharper, ruder, brighter – than any of Disney’s recent princess heroines. She’s also properly Scottish.

“Jings! Crivens! Help ma boab!” she exclaims at one point. A tribute to the eternal comic strip Oor Wullie, perhaps? We salute you, your highness. You’re braw.