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Overall Rating

Awesome: 29.23%
Worth A Look36.92%
Average: 6.15%
Pretty Bad: 9.23%
Total Crap: 18.46%

4 reviews, 41 user ratings

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Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
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by Erik Childress

"In The Grand Tradition of Great Animal Adventures"
4 stars

Remember those great stories you heard when you were a kid? The ones your parents may have read you before bedtime or caught your imagination during storytime with teacher? Walt Disney has been capturing some of that magic over the years with films ranging from Bambi to The Lion King, but there’s something special about those tales where the hero is an animal and allowed to be just that. No talking. No cute, fuzzy musical sidekicks and a limited amount of humans. Dreamworks’ latest animated effort proves that Shrek wasn’t just a lucky horseshoe and at least someone out there isn’t taking kids’ intelligence for granted.

Spirit (who isn’t given a name until the end of the movie) may not speak in words Mr. Ed-style, but he is given an inner monologue thanks to Matt Damon who narrates his progress from Spirit’s birth to his growing up into the leader of the herd. This prolonged introduction recalls the wonder of “Dinosaur”’s sweeping landscapes and wondrous beauty of wild animals at peace with the nature they call home.

When Spirit unwisely goads some local cowboys close to their grazing territory into a chase, he is captured and led back to a nearby cavalry outpost commanded by the brazen Colonel (voice by James Cromwell). Their attempts to clean up and brand the wild stallion are humorously thwarted time and time again until drastic measures forces Spirit to take matters into his hooves and plot a daring escape.

Animated adventures have had a rough footing since the resurgence of the songless cinematic treatments. Films like Titan A.E., Atlantis: The Lost Empire and even Dinosaur revealed many pleasures for the oculus but failed to generate the level of excitement we associate with the more successful of the live-action genres. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron may present itself with standard heroes and villains, but it’s less about showdowns than a series of adventures thrust upon our hero, each one more exciting than the last. (A showstopping run-in with the new railroad is enough to make Dr. Richard Kimble blink twice.) Spirit meets friends along the way, including the noble Lakota, Little Creek (voice by Daniel Studi) and his loyal feminine transport whom Spirit first rolls his eyes at (“Mares!”) and then soon becomes torn between caring for her and returning to his herd.

Like all animated films, Spirit takes its share of cues from others. Ever since Elton John got a hit album out of recording songs for The Lion King, pop stars have been getting the call to lend their voices as part of an extension of the characters’ own tongues. When the animals stopped singing, Phil Collins became somewhat of a Greek (or British) Chorus in Tarzan commenting on the action through his music. Bryan Adams continues the trend with a couple pleasant ditties (“I Will Always Return” and the film’s theme “Here I Am”) and an upbeat number that seemed too rockin’ cute for its own good (“Get Off My Back”, get it?) Where the music truly comes alive is whenever Hans Zimmer’s grandly magnificent score overtakes us through the wide-open spaces of the countryside as well as the quieter moments when we really get in touch with Spirit’s sadness and determination to run free again.

Horses are my second favorite animal (after dogs) and other than an occasional hypocritical trip to the racetrack, there’s something profoundly saddening about the way many of us see horses nowadays. Long gone are the days when it was commonplace for horses to run wild and we may not give a second thought seeing horses used for labor, transportation or for show. Horse-drawn carriages may be romantic, but its hard not to feel sorry for such a beautiful creature fit uncomfortably into all three categories. After seeing Spirit run his little legs off, whether alone or with his family, that sense of sorrow may overcome you whenever ropes come into the picture, only to be released in an avalanche of exultation when Spirit triumphs over his oppressors.

Credit the storytellers at work here for finally not reducing the animals to cutesy caricatures with a song in their heart and a wisecrack from every slip of the tongue. Then raise your glasses to the animators who had to follow through on the risky proposition of making the audience connect with a creature who has nothing but a few facial expressions and the occasional whinny to communicate. Sure, Damon pops up intermittenly to fill in a few blanks, but it’s never used in an intrusive front-to-back style to encapsulate every waking moment on screen as if adults (and kids) couldn’t figure out what’s transpiring.

With Ice Age resulting in a fun (and profitable) experience at theaters already and only another seven on the schedule for 2002 (including entries into VeggieTales, Hey Arnold! and Pokemon), Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron should be destined to remain towards the cream of the crop of family pictures to see. Adults should be won over by the animation and the maturity of the story that harkens back to classics like The Black Stallion and The Man From Snowy River while kids shall remain quiet enough to appreciate the excitement, or at the very least, revel in the sights of the beautiful horseys.

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originally posted: 05/24/02 02:20:51
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User Comments

10/19/15 WALTER The best animated film since The Lion King. 5 stars
8/04/12 Brittany Davis This animated movie lands squarely in the "strictly for kids" animated film 2 stars
11/19/07 Tiffany Losco I loved it. Great 5 stars
2/17/07 Tomara Cook I love it soo soo much it rocks 5 stars
12/17/06 David Cohen Dull and overly enamored with its own pretennsions 2 stars
3/12/06 Shaun Wallner Good Movie 3 stars
6/06/05 Kieran One of the greatest movies ever made. Bryan Adams soundtrack was special. Spirit rules. 5 stars
11/24/04 Ashley I love it 5 stars
9/21/04 Helen Bradley Brilliant 5 stars
8/14/04 N.P.D. Technically good. But has a lack of character and plot is cliched. Only for kids (girls). 2 stars
7/14/04 amit show animation 5 stars
6/22/04 horse crazed gurl if they wanted the movie to be more real they wouldn't have spirit lap up water like a dog 4 stars
6/01/04 Sean Scanlan Well 3 stars
5/14/04 derfroy best animatiom ever, gripping story with music to tell the tail of a horse!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
4/25/04 Carla cartoons arent always boring and kid-y, this was good 5 stars
4/11/04 Wildcarde1 i dont really like cartoons but was pleasantly surprised 4 stars
2/21/04 Denise Duspiva Good 4 stars
2/09/04 kay kay i tough it was the best 5 stars
1/20/04 Crystal One of the BEST movies 5 stars
1/16/04 Sana it was a really great movie with a great moral that some ppl are too shallow to see. 5 stars
12/23/03 Chris It was terrfic to see a film define the genre but it got boring after a while. 3 stars
11/24/03 Sihuhe Everybody who don't like this film is stupid. This film is amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/30/03 Briana Dunne I totally am in LOVE with this movie, every horse lover needs to see it! It's awsome! 5 stars
8/30/03 Kristin C. this movie rocks. im 13 and love it. it makes me feel spirited, and it's soudtrack rocks 5 stars
7/30/03 Jon Lyrik Annoyingly PC, overused 3D animation, terrible music, flatly written, dull. 2 stars
7/08/03 Alice Very nice. 4 stars
6/06/03 Gray not ONE of the soldiers was an ok guy?!! BS! 1 stars
4/19/03 Ubu the Ripper Even my kids hated this mindless excuse to squander talent. 1 stars
10/14/02 Katharina Merkel Spirit is a great movie which is touching and funny at one time! You'll love it!!! :) 5 stars
9/26/02 Charlotte McSweeney Spirit is fantastic 5 stars
9/08/02 Carla Metzger So squeakily politically correct, even horse-lovers should revolt! 1 stars
9/06/02 Priscilla Postlethwaite So politically correct that title character has to fart out wrong end; 1 stars
8/15/02 Gary Woodhouse Kids loved it, nice mix of animation & CGI. You get involved with characters, I even cried! 4 stars
7/09/02 orpy naaaaayyyyyy, whiiinnnnyyyyy 3 stars
6/25/02 Black Beauty Drivel - Bryan Adams is Elton John 1 stars
6/14/02 spaceworm I dunno, that soaring eagle looked like a comic sidekick to me... 4 stars
5/28/02 devon White I agree with Vidmar for once. Enough is enough 1 stars
5/27/02 Alex Furrow beautiful animation with bland songs and a boring, uninspired and predictable story. 2 stars
5/25/02 J I'm suprisingly going with Bob Atkins on this one. 5 stars
5/24/02 Bob Atkins beautiful American grandeur 5 stars
5/23/02 Veronica Foxx I detest those fourlegged creations of Satan. All that naying & shit got f'n annoying fast 2 stars
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Directed by
  Kelly Asbury

Written by
  John Fusco

  Matt Damon
  Bryan Adams
  James Cromwell
  Daniel Studi

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