Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (U)

Review by Tim Minor

SPIRIT: Stallion of the Cimarron trails the adventures of a wild mustang stallion as he journeys through the American frontier. Spirit is a 'rambunctious' animal who refuses to be broken but manages to make friends with a young Lakota brave and find love with a mare named Rain in this traditionally animated Western told for the first time from the perspective of a horse.

Let’s get this straight from the beginning - this animated western is narrated by a horse. So, if you’re not a fan of horses and you don’t have young children, you should avoid this film because you’re going to come out at the end hating them.

The one blessing is that none of the horses actually talk or sing, but given their extended whinnying and neighing they might as well.

I say that Spirit is 'traditionally animated' but, in fact, the production relies heavily on the power of computers to achieve what must be admitted is an impressive result.

Coming out of Dreamworks Pictures, you can expect a highly polished product and this is certainly what you get - with traditional 2D and computer generated 3D scenes and cuts mixing seamlessly throughout.

Apparently horses are notoriously difficult to draw (a fact that I can attest to, having given it a few tries) and even harder to animate, so your hat must come off to the illustrators and animators for their efforts.

The anthropomorphism runs riot with the audience, subjected to sickening scenes of muscle rubbing and neighing when our hero gets it together with the 'beautiful paint mare' called Rain. Possibly more worrying is that Spirit indulges in the same aforementioned rubbing when he meets his mother again. I appreciate that equine displays of affection are fairly limited but the incestuous overtones of the act were disturbing to say the least.

Although essentially a silent movie, Spirit features the talents of Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) who provides the first-person narration for Spirit and James Cromwell (Babe) who plays a Cavalry Colonel who is determined to break the defiant Spirit.

Once you add some 'emotional' and 'heartfelt' songs from Mr Bryan Adams you have possibly the most painful cinematic experience of 2002.

I think that co-director Kelly Asbury sums it up best when she states: "Bryan Adams has a very emotional, heartfelt singing style, which is appropriate for this because the songs tell the story from Spirit’s heart. In that way, Bryan is the heart of the film.” [My emphasis].

If you have a child whose age is in single figures, buy this movie on DVD, set it to play and then leave the room. My apologies to seven, eight and nine-year-olds.