Tom Santilli is a respected journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association, Detroit Film Critics Society and Online Film Critics Society since 2010. Tom is the Executive Producer and co-host of the syndicated TV show, "Movie Show Plus," which has been on the air for 20+ years in the Metro-Detroit market and Mid-West. He is also the film critic for WXYZ-TV. Twitter: @tomsantilli, Facebook & Instagram: @filmsurvivor.
It's just been a few weeks since the last horse feature hit theaters, the live-action "Dream Horse," and following somewhere behind is "Spirit Untamed." It's a spin-off of the 2002 animated film, "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," but set in a different era, the Old West, somewhere in the wide-open frontier.
"Spirit Untamed" is harmless, and may be a good way to pass time, or get you and your children out of the Summer heat. But it's surprisingly tame for a movie about a wild animal, and inexplicably clunky-looking for an animated film seeing release in 2021.
It's a story about a young girl, "Lucky" Prescott (Isabela Merced), the daughter of a mother she never quite knew who just so happened to be a horse-ridin' rodeo champion. After one too many trouble-making escapades, she moves back in with her father Jim (Jake Gyllenhaal), but encounters a wild stallion that she feels instantly - spiritually - connected to. But there's an evil horse wrangler in town (Walton Goggins) who is looking to rein in the fascinating horse and its companions, to sell them for profit.
The animation just seems like it was pulled off an a budget, and the disjointedness of it all might be due to the fact that it was produced remotely while in quarantine. Nevertheless, it's not the sort of crisp, smooth rendering that we've grown accustomed to with big-screen animated films, and feels more like an extended Nick Jr. enterprise.
Beyond its look though, "Spirit Untamed" offers nothing new in the way of theme or purpose, and exists as yet another movie of a kid who doesn't fit in finding friendship and companionship with an animal counterpart. It's not particularly memorable, funny or moving, but it's not like it offends.
Like several other "horse films," the genre feels trapped, uninspired and relegated to trotting around the same old worn-out track...we're still waiting for one to break-out from the rest of the pack and to disassociate itself from the rest of the losers. "Spirit Untamed" is worth rooting for, but isn't really in it to win it.
Genre: Family, Adventure, Animated.
Run Time: 1 hour 27 minutes.
Starring (voices of): Isabela Merced, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mckenna Grace, Julianne Moore, Walton Goggins, Marsai Martin, Eiza Gonzalez.
Directed by Elaine Bogan, Ennio Torresan (feature-film directorial debuts).
"Spirit Untamed" is in theaters on Friday, June 4th, 2021.