Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron
Because animals don't speak in "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," the film elevates the story from children's fantasy to a wider parable. The stallion's adventures are melodrama, and the hero is a horse, but humans will gain insights. An animated DreamWorks release, it's the story of Spirit, a wild mustang stallion, free on the great Western plains before he is captured by U.S. Cavalry troops, who think they can tame him. A gruff colonel (Cromwell) makes the stallion into a personal obsession. Spirit won't be broken, shod, or inducted into the Army; help comes from Little Creek (Studi), an Indian who helps him escape, and rides him to freedom. The cavalry pursues in animation that lets Spirit run wild, as his would-be captors chase him down canyons, through towering rocks, and under obstacles to end up in a river.
It somehow reminds us of Jack London's classic White Fang, so unfairly categorized as a children's story, although the book (and the excellent 1991 film) used the dog as a parable. White Fang and Spirit are holdouts against the taming of the frontier; invaders want to possess them, but they do not see themselves as property. Children will just enjoy its basic, big, bold, colorful adventure about a stubborn, wide-eyed horse.
Spirit does communicate; the animators gives great attention to body language and facial expressions in scenes in which Spirit is frightened of a blacksmith, in love with a mare, and the partner of the Indian brave whom he accepts after a battle of wills.((In a scene of perfect wordless communication, Spirit lets a small Indian child fearlessly approach him while he feels only alarm about humans. The two creatures, one giant, one tiny, tentatively reach out to each other, and the child's absolute trust is somehow communicated to the horse. Songs by rocker Bryan Adams fill narrative gaps in the spirit of the story. The film is short but surprisingly moving, with a couple of really thrilling sequences, one involving a train wreck and the other a daring leap across a chasm. Uncluttered, "Spirit" is pure and direct, a fable young viewers will strongly identify with.
Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook
Narration by Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Danile Studi
Wild mustang stallion in the American southwest
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