The ideal person to review the new “Spirit” animated movie would be maybe nine, probably a little girl and certainly a fan of the “Spirit: Riding Free” TV series that spun off of the 2002 movie, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.”
A guy old enough to have interviewed Jeffrey Katzenberg about Dreamworks’ “vision” for the original, dialogue-free film, isn’t on the same wavelength as the target audience. But the world isn’t fair, kids.
“Spirit Untamed” is almost exactly what anybody not nine would expect out of a feature film spun out of an animated TV show. Bland. Passable animation, but not “cutting edge,” not even on the blade. Simplistic story, maudlin “friends” and “teamwork” sentiment, dialogue that sounds generated by a “talk down to the kids” app.
“I made you something.” “When did you have time?” “There’s always time for friendship-based crafting!”
It’s not terrible, just young. Very young.
In the Railroading Era West, a girl named Lucky (Isabella Merced) moves back in with her railroad scion and engineering whiz Dad (Jake Gyllenhaal) years after her mother’s death.
Mom was a Latina circus trick rider who called her little girl “Fortuna,” and died after a stunt went wrong. So Lucky was raised by her Aunt (Julianne Moore).
Now settled in at Miradera, Lucky is taken by a stallion she saw on the ride there, that sapron-colored wonder Spirit. She renews their acquaintance at a local corral, where bronco-busters/rustlers led by Hendricks (Walton Goggins, watered down) expect to “break” him.
Dad? He’s still spooked by the animal that killed his “other” girl, his wife (voiced by Eiza González) in flashbacks.
“You will NOT go near them again — EVER. No horses!”
But Lucky befriends the daughter (Marsai Martin) of the owner of the corral (Andre Braugher), and the musically-inclined, tries-too-hard Abigail (Mckenna Grace), and their horses. And Lucky wins Spirit’s trust.
Before you can say “Fortuna Esperanza Novarro Prescott, you get BACK here,” “las cabelleras” are off on adventure across the “Ridge of Regret” to foil Hendricks and his desperadoes way over on Heck Mountain (Hah!) in whatever nefarious scheme they’re cooking up.
And Abigail is leading them in songs.
“When the trail gets rough, I got my pals and that’s enough, join up, join UP…We just listen to each other and together make it through, Join up, JOIN up!”
Cute tune and it comes off.
There’s a little slapstick, some novel rider’s-eye-view (over the horse’s mane) camera angles and a life lesson from dead Mom and a motto from Dad’s family — “Prescotts NEVER give up!”
And that’s your movie. No sense claiming it is more than it is, no sense beating up a TV-inspired/TV animation quality major motion picture that isn’t “major” in the least.
If your kids like animated movies and horses and they’re little enough, why not?
MPA Rating: PG for some adventure action
Cast: The voices of Isabela Merced, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marsai Martin, Julianne Moore, Andre Braugher, Eiza González and Walton Goggins
Credits: Directed by Elaine Bogan, Ennio Torresan , script by Kristin Hahn, Katherine Nolfi and Aury Wallington. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:28