Rated G - Running Time: 1:22 - Released 5/24/02

After working as storyboard artist on films like Toy Story, James And The Giant Peach, and The Prince of Egypt, animator Kelly Asbury takes a seat in the director's chair, along with colleague Lorna Cook, to produce a bland but pleasing animated horse story for Dreamworks called Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron. Written by John Fusco, the film is pleasing to the eyes, and the ears (it's got some nice music by Hans Zimmer and a few mildly catchy songs by Bryan Adams), but lacks the fast pace and complex story line of most recent children's films. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it's kind of nice not to have to explain the traditions of the Jedi Order or the history of Middle-Earth to your 5-year-old, and at under 1½ hours, its running time is also very kid-friendly.

Spirit recounts the story of a wild mustang in the "Old West" (I gathered it was set some time in the 19th century) who is separated from his herd and taken prisoner, first by the United States Cavalry and then by a friendly tribe of Native Americans, and forced to fight for his freedom, finding out the meaning of love and loyalty along the way. Although the horse himself doesn't talk, his first-person perspective is provided by the voice of narrator Matt Damon (who doesn't do any particular character work), and the only other significant speaking parts are an Army colonel (James Cromwell) and a Lakota boy named Little Creek (Daniel Studi). The sparse nature of the dialogue seems to emphasize the grandeur of the setting, as the most beautiful aspects of the American West are captured in vibrant colors on the screen during the many wordless action scenes and those between the lead horse and his girlfriend, a blue-eyed, blonde-maned mare. The story is ultra-simple and includes some rather incredible leaps, both literal and figurative, but the digitally enhanced visuals are more than enough to compensate for the lack of complexity in the narrative.

This film is probably better for younger children; those who are used to more sophisticated fare might get bored, but little kids seem to love this stuff. My 6-year-old talked about it all day long. All in all, it's an adequate way to spend a few hours—much more than I can say for many other films out there. ***½

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

Current | Archives | Oscars | About | E-Mail