Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Dreamworks Pictures would like audiences to think that its new film, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is the next step forward in animation. It occupies a middle ground between "traditional" animation and the recent fad of computer generated films (like Shrek or Monster's Inc.). Well, the blending of the two is not new. Movies like Atlantis and Rugrats in Paris already do it, but possibly not to the degree that Spirit does. The opening sequence of this movie is a spectacular flight through America, and purportedly took nine months to create. It is this scene that shows the promise of computer animation. The rest of the movie is a little more conventional in every meaning of the term, although they it does deserve some credit for ambition. Unlike many G-rated animated features, the animals in Spirit do not speak and sing. Also, drawing horses is notoriously difficult, which makes a film centering on them a huge challenge.

Spirit tells the adventure of a wild mustang stallion who encounters humans for the first time. Although he has no voice, Matt Damon (The Majestic, Ocean's Eleven) provides some sparse first-person narration. Spirit is in charge of his herd of wild horses, until humans capture him. Under the leadership of the Cavalry Colonel (voiced by James Cromwell, Space Cowboys, The Green Mile), the men try to tame him. He escapes with the help of Little Creek (voiced by James Studi, Crazy Horse), a young Lakota whom he eventually befriends. Along the way, he also befriends Rain, Little Creek's mare, and learns more about the humans. Initially, they all seem the same to him, but after spending time with Little Creek, he realizes that there are good people as well as bad ones. There is nothing earth shattering in John Fusco's (Loch Ness, The Babe) script, which generally sticks to all the central tenets of family fare. It's all so familiar that aside from the animation, things tend to drag in places. Directors Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook also chose to present an oversimplified politically correct view of the people (Army bad, Indians good) that may annoy some adults.

Still, this is a film geared primarily towards children, and children will probably like it. There are some perilous moments that may cause some kids to wince, and the ending may cause some others to cry, but it's nothing they haven't seen before. And since this is a Dreamworks movie, it means that their music muse, Hans Zimmer, provides the music. His score is fitting for an Old West adventure, it's only the songs by Bryan Adams that are nearing the point of tedious. Since there is little dialogue from Spirit, the movie uses Damon and Adams to forward plot points. This means that the lyrics to Adams' songs tend to be a little overtly literal, making his songs a little obvious. Nevertheless, aside from the songs, Spirit moves along surprisingly efficiently given the lack of dialogue from the protagonist. In all, Spirit is fun to watch, but nothing extremely special.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 22 minutes, Rated G.

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