A review of  Spirit - Stallion of the Cimarron” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: G for good for all ages

Run Time: 1 hour, 22 minutes

 

          Astonishing visuals highlight this simple, charming tale of a courageous mustang stallion called Spirit, who endures some tough life lessons as he journeys through the untamed American frontier.

          Wild horses are living reckless and free in the unexplored territory of the American West when man makes his unexpected appearance.  Spirit is a fierce and inquisitive soul, so it’s hardly surprising when he seeks out the mysterious glow of firelight he spots across the valley.  Happening upon a group of cavalry soldiers sleeping around a campfire, Spirit is moved to investigate. A melee ensues, and Spirit is captured in a noble attempt to protect his herd.

          Taken against his will to the soldiers’ confining fortress, Spirit is held captive while an evil Cavalry Colonel (voice of James Cromwell) attempts to break him.  Not a single one of the determined cavalry is successful in taming the rambunctious mustang who desperately yearns for his family and his independence.  An unforeseen connection with a Lakota Indian prisoner named Little Creek (voice of Daniel Studi) develops into an unbreakable bond that may buy both their precious freedom.

          Break out the Kleenex.  Spirit’s story is stirring to the point of tears.  The spacious skies and amber waves of grain of the open plains, the steadfast animal spirit that can’t be crushed, and the small steps of trust that develop between man and beast are enormously affecting.  Spirit also finds love (the upshot of some beguiling horsy foreplay) with a beautiful paint mare named Rain, whose life is held in the balance when the Cavalry strikes once again.

          Questionable casting choices preclude “Spirit” from joining the ranks of the Animated Classics.  The action is delightfully dialogue-less (the script calls for whinnying as opposed to speaking), but Matt Damon “narrates” as Spirit in a monotonous voice that lends a repetitive quality to the otherwise snappy pacing.  The lovely, flowing movements of stallions in motion is tainted by an unbearably cheesy, soft-rock Bryan Adams score – a poor musical choice considering the fine quality of animation.

          It’s awfully nice to step aside from the frenetic activity of a “Star Wars” or “Spider-Man” to be lulled by the splendor of exceptional animated simulation and the catchy emotion of undaunted spirit.