Animation: gorgeous. Voice acting: excellent. Two things no one should really have doubted. The film is the short for a Pixar film, so the team had to make every moment count, and I believe they succeeded. Everything in the film fed into the plot and characterization. The lords seem to be mere caricatures, and for the most part they are. Their children hardly get any screen time, but the film takes an important moment to establish that it is not just girls who want to be free, the boys out there do too and should also be given that chance.
The film's main theme is about selflessness and accepting that you do have responsibilities, even if you do not like them. There are some things that you cannot avoid, but you also do not have to face them alone. There is no set villain in the film, much like Finding Nemo. This is a Pixar film, so the main focus is on the relationships. The focus of the film is on Merida's inner demons—her selfishness, and how she allows that to affect those around her. It is also about Elinor who, for all of her attempts at controlling Merida, does love her daughter, she just does not listen to her and that causes problems of its own.
While the film was focused primarily on Merida coming to her own realizations, there is plenty of action and humor dotted throughout. But make no mistake, this is not an action movie. It is a relationship movie that tries, and I believe succeeds, to build a relationship between these characters and tell the story it wants to tell.
My main complaint is its length: it is too short. There are moments that could have dug deeper into a few ideas the script brought up. The story is simple and can seem a bit preachy sometimes, but it is a solid take on the idea that there is more than one kind of "true love" than the "romantic" love of so many fairy tales, and also that responsibilities will always exist no matter how much we wish to avoid them sometimes. I was satisfied with the time I spent with this film, and I believe that it should be judged for what it was, not what it could have been.