And the hits just keep coming for Reese Witherspoon. The actress, who was America’s one-time sweetheart (and still is to many outside of the Hollywood.com offices), has been in a cinematic slump as of late. Before the massive failure of her most recent film, James L. Brooks’ How Do You Know, she hadn’t appeared on screen since 2008’s commercial-hit-but-critical-bomb Four Christmases; before that was the incomprehensible Rendition. Though her upcoming drama Water For Elephants could be a modest success (that’s a big could, unfortunately), she’s just been dropped from a sure-bet gem: Pixar’s 2012 release Brave.
Entertainment Weekly reports that Kelly MacDonald, she of Trainspotting and Boardwalk Empire fame, will now voice the protagonist Princess Merida in the company’s first fairy tale motion picture, stepping in for the Oscar-winning Witherspoon. She joins a great roster that includes Billy Connolly, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Emma Thompson and Julie Walters to tell the story of “the daughter of the rulers of a Scottish kingdom, who one day ‘defies a sacred custom of the land, and inadvertantly brings turmoil to the kingdom.’ In order to fix things, she goes to a Wise Woman, and is granted a wish; one that is described as ‘ill-fated.’”
Based on that great vocal cast, and these early concept drawings that have just hit the web (see below), I think that Brave (which was once titled The Bear and The Bow) is going to be a typically stupendous movie from the Pixar hit-factory that will enthrall audiences young and old. There have been numerous shake-ups related to Brave’s production, from directors dropping out and getting replaced to today’s development, but as the source notes this is all hardly unprecedented. Director Jan Pinkava was replaced by Brad Bird on 2007’s Oscar winning Ratatouille far closer to the film’s release date than the move that put Mark Andrews in charge of Pixar’s latest original product (originally to be helmed by Brenda Chapman), so I’m not worried that the creative regime change will have any devastating effects on the film. Ms. Witherspoon’s career, however, will take a bigger hit than Brave as her upcoming slate includes little more than a risky period drama and an bloated action comedy that may prove to be a mistake.