Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
review by Gregory Avery, 24 May 2002

Well, at least the animals don't talk. Not on-camera, anyway. "Sometimes, a horse has gotta do what a horse has gotta do," Matt Damon says on the soundtrack during Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, as the film's lead character, a brown mustang stallion, throws one mean ol' cavalry soldier after another off his back while they try to break him. Even the mean ol' squinty-eyed colonel of the fort where this is taking place fails to do so, and he's a cuss, even after the stallion bites his riding crop in half. Our hero fares better with the Lakota tribe next door, though: they treat him humanely, give him apples to eat, and the horse returns their consideration in turn.

The movie is briskly paced, and at times lovingly rendered in a combination of conventional and computer-generated animation. It is also clunkingly inspirational -- the whole story is about the stallion doggedly determined to get back "home" to the herd from whence he sprung, and, at the end, how he and his Lakota friend, a young brave named Little Creek, win their "freedom forever". At least in this little soap bubble of a story. (History chronicles that the opposite was true, that the native Western wilderness would be run over by the "manifest destiny" movement, along with, shamefully, the native American tribes.)

While the filmmakers take the admirable tact of having the animals on-screen communicate non-verbally, their actions and reactions are often decidedly anthropomorphic, and the Bryan Adams songs that are incorporated into Hans Zimmer's orchestral score are as achingly uplifting as a hatpin being suddenly jabbed into your thigh. (Sample lyric: "Here I am,/This is me...." Well, who were you expecting, someone else? responded I.)

Our four-footed hero -- who refers to humans as "two-leggeds" -- frees several of his captive, bridled comrades during the course of the narrative, single-hoofedly demolishes a steam locomotive and incinerates a railroad workers' camp in the process, and gets the girl in the end -- a brown and cream-coloured filly named Rain. Kids at the showing I attended were eating the whole thing up. Now, if Spirit and Rain can only prevent the Oklahoma land rush....

Directed by:
Kelly Asbury 
Lorna Cook

Starring the voices of:
Matt Damon
James Cromwell
Daniel Studi

Written by:
John Fusco

Rated:
G - General Audiences.
All ages admitted
.

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