In this apparently elitist world of professional CEOs, overnight successes, and Peter Principle incompetence, it is fun to watch working people rise through the ranks and achieve success.  Billy Connolly(“The Last Samurai”)  began his professional career as a welder and was almost 50 when he finally received more than a bit part.  Emma Thompson (“Men in Black 3”) languished for years in British TV before her screenwriting more than her acting gave her a break in “Sense and Sensibility.”  Actress Julie Walters (“Calendar Girls”), actor Robbie Coltrane (“Harry Potter”) and comedian Craig Ferguson (“How to Train Your Dragon”) have also soldiered on for years before attaining recognition.  Mark Andrews had been working in various capacities in Hollywood (storyboards, animation, art department) for three decades and has finally been given the opportunity to direct his first full length film.  It is therefore not surprising that he would surround himself with these talented artists (and others) for his directorial debut “Brave.” “Brave” tells the story of young Merida, the teenage daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), overlords of the Scottish highlands.  In keeping with tradition, a competition between suitors for the hand of the princess is arranged.  But Merida wants freedom of choice.  In desperation, she turns to a witch to provide a magical spell that Merida believes will remedy the situation.  Instead, the spell transforms Elinor into a bear and Merida’s defiance of tradition threatens the kingdom with civil war.  Merida must fight to return her mother, restore peace to the kingdom, and preserve her own independence.Visually, “Brave” is a marvel.  The animation evokes rather than merely depicts the medieval Scottish highlands: majestic, wild, beautiful, idyllic, desolate, dangerous, mysterious and magical.  Formidable fortresses are poised above rocky-shored lochs, labyrinthine passages wind through stone castles, thick-boled trees shroud forest trails in a canopy of green.  “Brave” is lush; but this is not a static postcard of Scotland.  The camera angles are dizzying and dazzling: swooping from a bird’s eye view to thundering along on horseback to delivering (and receiving) brutal blows in hand-to-hand combat with a ferocious bear, the audience is not merely invited, but dragged forcefully into a fantastical world that comes alive.  The animation makes “Brave” an exuberant experience.But it is the story that is so richly compelling in “Brave.”  Brenda Chapman’s (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Mark Andrew’s (“John Carter”) screenplay tells a fascinating tale that is much more complex than first perceived.  It is a children’s story, complete with impish little brothers reminiscent of Kevin Corcoran in “Swiss Family Robinson.”  It is an action-adventure film, with as many chase/escape/fight scenes as “Pirates of the Caribbean.”  It is a fairy tale with as much mysticism and magic as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”  It is a coming of age story as touching as “Secondhand Lions.”  It is also a wonderfully wrought allegory.  While this film is mesmerizing for all ages, I would encourage adults to search for the socio-political truths it tells in this, a highly inflammatory election year.  In this regard, “Brave” is a refreshing combination of modern cinematic story-telling, with flamboyant camera movement and a rich tapestry of images and at the same time a throwback to complex morality tales of old.  It is that rarity in recent motion pictures; a tale worth telling, done in a fashion that is entertaining to many different types of people (not just a specific target audience).  A truly lovely film for everyone, I highly recommend you see this animated movie.

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The story of an underdog is one that always seems to resonate with movie audiences, most likely because at one time or another in our lives we have all been