Movie Reviews : ‘Bravestarr’: Neo-Western Saddled by Its Design

“Bravestarr: The Legend,” a new animated feature from the Filmation Studio (showing at special weekend matinees at selected theaters), tries to move an old-fashioned, shoot-'em-up Western into a “Star Wars” setting, but achieves only limited success.

Bravestarr, an American Indian cowboy-cum-interstellar marshal, is the central figure in a line of action toys. Shaman, a wise old Indian/Obi-Wan Kenobi figure, gives the hero magic powers and assists in the battles against the evil Stampede (a monster with steer’s horns) and his villainous henchman, Tex Hex. Rounding out the cast are .30-.30, a robot horse; J.P., the spirited lady judge of the planet of New Texas, and the Prairie People, a repellently cute group of gopherlike aliens.

“Bravestarr” fails to integrate the 19th-Century West with the future, partially because the toy company saddled the artists with improbable designs (rocket scooters with fairings shaped like horses’ heads) and unfortunate names (it’s hard to make a villain called Tex Hex seem other than comic). But writers Bob Forward and Steve Hayes also took the cliches of old Westerns too literally: There’s something ludicrous about a robot horse drawling, “Guess Ah owe you one,” or two cowboys fighting a “High Noon” duel with ray guns.

The film boasts some impressive computer-generated special effects, and the computer animators did their job almost too well. The three-dimensional renderings of machines move in realistic perspective--which makes the limited drawn animation of the characters look even flatter and stiffer by comparison.

Although “Bravestarr: The Legend” is a more polished effort than Filmation’s recent “Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night,” pacing remains a problem and the climactic battles fizzle like damp fireworks. Still, small boys who own the action figures--the film’s obvious target audience--will probably consider an afternoon at “Bravestarr” time well-spent.