Dreamworks SKG set out a task for itself to show the spirit of the animals without their ability to use the English language. Here the horses don't sing, dance or talk. So where is all the fun? The only "horsing" here is done through Matt Damon's narration of Spirit's thoughts. This could have worked - but it didn't.
Spirit is a wild, free-spirited stallion and leader of the Cimmaron herd. He runs with the eagle until he's captured by some by Cavalry soldiers in the old west, due to his curiosity. The cavalry's leader (James Cromwell) decides to break spirit by starving and dehydrating him and ties him to a post for three days. The same fate is met by a captured Indian (Little Creek), however the duo manages to gallop away. Little Creek (Daniel Studi) teaches the stallion about the power of love and the value of compromise.
While the horses galloped, never has there been anyone in the audience who was that excited about discussions in regards to painting doors. One can't be blamed for taking a little break, considering just how predictable this movie got. Perhaps the greatest fault lies in the extremely weak script/storyline. Aside from Spirit's galloping away and being caught over and over, there is nothing much else. Most scenes in the movie lack plausibility and while it can certainly be forgiven in a film, not to such an radical extent. Throw in a couple of hard-pressed morals and you've got yourself a headache.
The film's major premise was to lay off the standard talking-animal pattern of most animated pictures. The horses convey their emotions through whinnies, snorts, and facial expressions. Instead of horses being Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, horses are horses. It's an interesting tactic, although talking animals are not an emotional conflict either! Perhaps it would have worked, except it didn't. Inserting a voiceover narration by Matt Damon didn't help either. It felt entirely out of place. If there was more horsing around in his narration, it would have helped greatly.
The animation is the strongest element. It's stunning and reflects the rich, vibrant colors of the Old West with bursts of exhilaration and energy At numerous moments the animation actually felt real. When the snow dropped, you thought it was dropping on you and when the horse jumped, you felt like you were about to fall. Hans Zimmer's score also greatly flatters the film. It's very much in sync with the picture. As for Bryan Adams's songs, a few did stand out such as "Get of off my back," and "never going to give up." However most of his other songs were quite weak and mild.
Directors Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook utilize a lyrical style of storytelling, employing music greatly to drive the plot. There were a few times when eyes could have gotten candidly teary and they did. It's obvious that there were at least some talented people involved with this spirited project, but they must have been looking the other way when the ghastly script sneaked up on them. John Fusco should be broken, err, fired.
The target audience of girls will definitely appreciate it much more than the adult world. It's stunning, has horses, high energy and a few jokes here and there. While the idea was there, it's unfortunate that the script left us to watch not much more than a bunch of pretty horses running around from place to place to the 'soulful' tunes of Bryan Adams.
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Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is out May 24, 2002.