Spirit Untamed is just another botched effort that insults the original Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Spirit Untamed showcases another low point for DreamWorks, as this film struggles to find a reason to exist. The film manages to make the Netflix series, Spirit Riding Free, come off better than it is. Having only been to theaters once, nearly twenty years ago at that. Spirit’s return to theaters should be ignored because Spirit Untamed offers nothing to justify its 87-minute runtime.
A bland story carried by uninteresting characters is sure to deter audiences from returning to theaters. Spirit Untamed’s synopsis does tease a solid story to build on, but the execution is underwhelming. Children probably won’t have gripes with this film, and that’s ok because placing young girls at the center of the story should send a positive message that young moviegoers can appreciate. Directed by Elaine Bogan and Ennio Torresan Jr, the film is written by Aury Wallington and Kristin Hahn. Spirit Untamed stars Isabela Merced, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marsai Martin, Grace Moore, Eiza Gonzalez, and Mckenna Grace. It centers on a young girl named Lucky (Merced), who moves to a small town and bonds with a Kiger mustang named Spirit.
Wallington and Hahn’s script sets a solid foundation, but fizzles out and becomes trite. Lucky is introduced as the daughter of a horse-riding stunt performer (Gonzalez), something that has been hidden from her. An accident leads to her mother’s demise, and Lucky has been raised by her Aunt Cora (Moore), who worries that Lucky’s lack of care for rules and restrictions will cause trouble for her. The script establishes that Lucky is very much like her mother in that regard, so her loved ones want to keep her safe since it’s believed that’s what got Lucky’s mom hurt. After arriving in town, Lucky’s initial disinterest is changed after meeting Spirit. When Spirit’s livelihood is put at risk, Lucky sets out to help her new best friend. The strongest aspect of Spirit Untamed is the relationship between Lucky and Spirt, the horse unlocks her confidence in the qualities her Aunt Cora is trying to deny her.
Sadly, the other characters are so uninteresting, Lucky isn’t that compelling either. The self-discovery she makes along the way sends a strong message to younger viewers but Spirit Untamed offers such a lackluster adventure in the process. Still, the script isn’t a jumbled mess, or incoherent, the characters are just dull, which brings the film down. Merced’s performance as Lucky makes the character’s growth pleasing to watch and lends to the self-discovery angle. The performances draw some interest, but the one-dimensional characters can’t be saved by it. Spirit Untamed’s animation isn’t very smooth either in comparison to the original 2002 film. If the characters don’t take audiences out of the film, the animation should get the job done with no issue. Bogan and Torresan’s directional debut isn’t a strong outing, Spirit Untamed doesn’t capture the emotional weight it’s searching for but it does offer great action and heartfelt moments for kids. There are some pacing issues along the way, which is what makes the film seem longer than what it is.
Spirit Untamed should go unnoticed because there are far better family outings for everyone to enjoy. The glimpses of hope the film shows aren’t enough to keep it engaging from start to finish. A movie for kids doesn’t have to suffer from weak scripts, animation hiccups, and a nonfulfilling story. Spirit Untamed won’t impress fans that grew up with the original film, or those that have an interest in Netflix’s series. This story about a girl and her horse does not deserve any attention.