BRAVE (Rated PG)
Indeed, 13 is a lucky number for Disney and Pixar, as the mystical legend of a courageous princess in “Brave” represents the 13th full-length animation feature coming from the collaboration of two studios known for animation.
“Brave” is an unusual combination of “Braveheart” and “The Hunger Games,” in which the main protagonist is a high-spirited Scottish girl, skilled in archery, with a wild mane of untamed red hair and a fiery disposition to match.
Determined to carve her own path, Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is the headstrong daughter of the physically imposing King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and cultured Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson).
Her independent streak was evident from a childhood interest in becoming a proficient archer, developing the same kind of unladylike talent perfected by Katniss Everdeen.
Merida is the product of her father, King Fergus, a loud, boisterous Highland warrior of immense size and unbridled passion, who lost his leg to the demon bear Mor’du during a fierce fight.
Fergus delights in endlessly regaling his daughter and her younger triplet brothers (all with bright red hair) with stories of his wild outdoor adventures.
By the time Merida reaches her teen years, she’s a chip off the old block – sword fighting, scaling cliffs and shooting arrows while riding her trusty steed Angus through the woods.
But as far as mother Queen Elinor is concerned, Merida’s destiny is not galloping through the rugged Highlands with her bow in tow.
The Queen’s plan for her lovely but obstinate daughter is to uphold age-old royal custom and accept an arranged marriage to one of three suitors representing the kingdom’s unruly clans.
The clans are summoned to Castle DunBroch to compete in the Highland Games, but the lords are soon outraged when Merida defies a sacred tradition.
The offspring of the lords are lacking in many ways. In a contest for Merida’s hand, they compete in an archery tournament, but are disgraced by the princess’ nimble marksmanship.
As the clans revert to their history of fervent feuding and brawling, Merida gallops away from the castle on Angus, heading for the darkest reaches of the forest where a Stonehenge-like plateau leads to the home of an ugly old sorceress.
Moving into the familiar territory that comes with animated stories involving royalty, “Brave” turns to the supernatural sorcery that comes when a spell is cast by a hideous, toothless ancient witch (Julie Walters).
At this point, I would rather not reveal the outcome of the magic spell, but the story pivots even more to the difficulties of the conflicted mother-daughter dynamic.
Human actions and desires often have unintended consequences, a truism which becomes painfully obvious and a thorny dilemma for a regretful Merida.
Not only did Merida’s earlier exploits unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, the witch’s grant of an ill-fated wish compounds the troubles that the rambunctious red-haired princess is unable to avoid.
The charm of “Brave,” apart from celebrating the appealing heroine’s pluck, is the heartening message of the importance of loyalty to family, overcoming the rough patches of fleeting discord and hardship.
The exuberant Merida appears destined to enter the pantheon of great Disney animated characters, a spirited heroine equipped with physical talents unmatched by any of the other female royal figures.
“Brave” is visually complex, with Scottish Highlands beautifully illustrated. It’s a period piece with historical references, and as such, the film is anything but formulaic.
While “Brave” involves great storytelling and humor, it has its dark, violent moments that might be a bit too bleak and scary for really little kids. Otherwise, it is, as they say in the vernacular, all good.
DVD RELEASE UPDATE
It’s been mentioned several times before in this space that the detective drama “Mannix” was one of the best of its kind on network television.
Now being released in a DVD set is “Mannix: The Seventh Season,” an action-packed series in which the episodes are as fresh and original as the first season.
Mike Connors is the hard-boiled and gritty private eye Joe Mannix, who defies all the rules and protocols as he fights crime on the streets of Los Angeles.
While he gets help from his pals at the LAPD, Mannix’s most loyal secretary Peggy (Gail Fisher) is a key player in running his investigation business.
Another classic 1970s police drama starring Hollywood icon Michael Douglas returns to DVD with “The Streets of San Francisco: Season Three, Volume One.”
In addition, “Season Three, Volume Two” is also being released on DVD, so you have to buy two sets to get the full season.
The extra expense may be worth it considering that Douglas, playing a young, college educated Inspector Steve Keller, was tutored by Karl Malden’s veteran detective Lt. Mike Stone.
“Mannix” and “The Streets of San Francisco” make a great combination of thrilling TV crime dramas from a golden age of this genre.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.