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Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Starring: Matt Damon, James Cromwell
Director: Kelly Asbury
Rated: G
RunTime: 78 Minutes
Release Date: May 2002
Genres: Animation, Kids

*Also starring: Daniel Studi, Bryan Adams

Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

You may shed a tear while watching "Spirit" not for any of the horses in the brilliantly animated movie or for any of the men (no one gets killed) but the poor ol' horses around the world who have been domesticated and are used for purposes never intended by nature. I think of the nags that haul tourists around Central Park in New York when the warm weather approaches, each unfortunate four-legged beast tethered to a chariot and made to pull up to four people on dangerous sidewalks. Not so the hero of Kelly Albury and Lorna Cook's film, though heaven knows people had tried their best to ruin the title character's life.

"Spirit" takes us to the wild mustang's life first as a newborn colt, dependent on its parent for milk and protection, then as the leader of the pack the spot reserved for him by his father. From the time he takes his first drink of milk until he proves his adeptness at leadership by chasing away a large, hungry wildcat and beyond, he is in motion as are the horses and men who come into his life. The Utah scenery, the almost unceasing movements of these majestic beasts, the 3-D-like effects that give this feature its breakthrough technical effects, all combine to enthrall the kids who, in the screening I attended, did not utter a peep until their considerable applause at the heroic conclusion. And remember that at no time did any equine utter a word of English Spirit's feelings were under the able command of Matt Damon narration performance.

On the negative side, the G-rated dialogue is bereft of any wisecracking that could get the adults in the audience to feel that this picture is for them as well. John Fusco's script is as banal as could be imagined. The political correctness could be irritating as well. Little Creek, the noble Lakota Indian captured by the mean white men in their blue uniforms who is later freed by Spirit (and who repays the quadruped by doing likewise for him), is an indomitable spirit himself, even when tethered and deprived of food and water for three days. In one event, which was the basis of the movie's most explosive scene, Spirit, fearing that the white man's railroad would encroach upon his horse territory, single-hoofedly stops the train in its tracks and actually reverses its motion until the entire railroad company barracks explode like a scene in an Arnold movie. The most breathtaking moment takes place as Spirit and Little Creek are seemingly trapped on a Utah cliff, standing out as though on an island in the midst of the Great American West, with Spirit's saving the day by making like the Tri-Star horse (Pegasus).

Breathtaking scenery and animation combines with banal dialogue to make an animated pic just great for the kids but simply watchable for the big fry.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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