Running time: 87 minutes. Rated PG (some adventure action). In theaters.
More like “Spirit Uninteresting.”
The latest installment in the “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” horse franchise — which has mindbogglingly been in existence for 19 years — is “Spirit Untamed.”
It’s closer to a state fair pony ride than a rousing Western adventure.
A general criterion for a kids movie is that you should be able to remember the villain — their voice, look, catchphrase. Well, right now I can more easily picture the cashier at Trader Joe’s than the baddie of “Spirit Untamed.”
The entire plot is just as bland. A little girl named Lucky (voiced by Isabela Merced) goes to live with her widowed father (Jake Gyllenhaal) out West after she embarrasses her granddad, who’s running for governor, at a party. She feels like a fish out of water till she meets Spirit, a wild horse who’s been captured and put to work in the rodeo.
While attempting to ride him unsupervised — great idea! — Spirit gets loose, and the two go on a dangerous adventure through the mountains, along with her two horse-obsessed pals Pru (Marsai Martin) and Abigail (Mckenna Grace).
Because this is a modern movie with a female empowerment message, Lucky is instantly able to ride a wild stallion without so much as a training montage.
Most of the challenges they face on their journey are along the lines of “We can’t cross the river,” or “The terrain is too rocky.” Eventually, they meet a group of horse thieves — the aforementioned bad guys, who I don’t know from Adam — who capture Spirit and his stable of friends. It’s up to the girls to rescue them during a real yawn of a finale.
Why must I be so mean to this occasionally cute, PG-rated trifle? The bar has been raised in recent years for animated films that get theatrical releases, thanks to Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks (which really dropped the ball with this one). This is, in part, because now family movies are true multigenerational experiences that are expected to appeal to a wide variety of people and tastes. They’re not only for children anymore. Pathetic 38-year-olds without kids are sitting alone in dark movie theaters sobbing over the fate of a doll named Woody.
“Spirit Untamed” is, by comparison, extremely infantile, and yet, still less stimulating than many entertainments geared squarely toward infants. I’d rather put “Baby Shark” on repeat all day than spend another 90 minutes with this adult horse.