Fans of the DreamWorks Animation Spirit franchise rejoice because the next chapter, Spirit Untamed, is days away from its official worldwide cinematic release.
Off the back of 2002’s Academy Award-nominated film Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron and the Netflix series Spirit Riding Free, Spirit Untamed tells the story of Lucky Prescott (Isabela Merced) and a wild mustang named Spirit. After the death of her mother, Milagro (Eiza González), Lucky is raised by her Aunt Cora (Julianne Moore) due to her father Jim’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) overwhelming grief. After a decade, Aunt Cora and, now rebellious and free-spirited, Lucky visit Jim in Miradero, a small and sleepy American town. Lucky eventually befriends a similarly rebellious Spirit and two local horseback riders, Abigail Stone (Mckenna Grace) and Pru Granger (Marsai Martin). When a callous horse wrangler (Walton Goggins) anticipates seizing Spirit from Al Granger’s (Andre Braugher) stable, Lucky and her new friends embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
While the overall narrative is captivating, it is lacking in certain respects. Despite Jim’s magnitude of grief after Milagro’s death, he was able to live a productive life and build a train no less but, he was unable to simultaneously raise his daughter. This vital plot point is glossed over by writers Aury Wallington and Kristin Hahn. In fact, every relationship other than Lucky and Spirit’s is muted and treated as an afterthought. Even theirs has the fast forward button firmly pressed so their adventure can be conveniently completed within ninety minutes. When taking into consideration other animated features, such as Coco and Toy Story, achieve both—develop relationships and an adventure— with depth and authenticity in a similar timeframe, Spirit Untamed falls short in this respect.
Where the film excels, however, is in its overall direction and production. Director Elaine Bogan and producer Karen Foster do well to convey a complete, if surface level, story in a timeframe that appeases audiences of all ages. The film’s score, composed by Amie Doherty, is complementary and serves to evoke the underlying emotion of the narrative.
Spirit Untamed may be a film lacking in substance, but it is certainly packed with entertainment. Fans of the Spirit franchise, in particular Spirit Riding Free, are sure to be delighted and wholeheartedly invested with the latest instalment of the family-friendly series.
Movie Review By Anita Kertes