In theatres June 4
Lucky (Isabela Merced) heads out west to live with her dad (Jake Gyllenhaal) one summer, along with her Aunt Cora (Julianne Moore). She spies a wild mustang during the train ride and is smitten. When she sees him in training at her dad’s place in Miradero, she tries to make friends with the headstrong horse. A rustler (Walton Goggins) has other ideas for Spirit, which leads Lucky on a mission to rescue this kindred spirit.
A simple tale that aims for a young audience and their families, “Spirit Untamed” draws strength from its female characters.
Lucky is a plucky city girl, who along with her diverse friends, present a united “girl power” front on the frontier. She is voiced by Isabela Merced, who was the live-action Dora in “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” in 2019. She projects warmth and bravery, and an independent streak, with a distaste for rules, in an affluent, well-respected railroad family.
Her late mother, Milagro Navarro (Eiza Gonzalez), was an accomplished rider who performed in a local rodeo before a tragic accident. Lucky learns more about her mom’s legacy, her Mexican heritage and the place her parents called home.
Her two girlfriends that she meets out west are Abigail Stone, voiced by McKenna Grace, and Pru Granger, embodied by Marsai Martin. They form a fun-loving trio whose dangerous trek across “The Ridge of Regret” is a harrowing adventure. But there’s more lessons as she rescues Spirit from the bad guys.
The voice cast is impressive. Abigail has a mischievous brother, Snips, who tends to draw trouble, played by Lucian Perez, and Pru’s protective dad, Al, is voiced by Andre Braugher. He’s also Lucky’s dad’s best friend.
It doesn’t matter if you saw the original film, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,” one of the last hand-drawn animated movies from DreamWorks in 2002, which featured Matt Damon as the voice of the horse. It was nominated for the Academy Award’s best animated feature.
Or even if you watched any of the TV series that ran on Netflix from 2017-2019, “Spirit Riding Free.” The original John Fusco story has been adapted by Kristin Hahn and Katherine Nolfi for this film. Aury Wallington had created the TV series. You’ll be able to engage with this sequel that borrows freely from the TV show.
Swift action propels this tale for a tidy 97 minutes – don’t think too hard about the logistics and just enjoy the animation through young kids’ eyes. Composer Amie Doherty has found the right tempo for the wild, wild west.
And while “Spirit Untamed” hits its target, keep expectations in check for a pleasant diversion that doesn’t break any ground, like a Pixar film or previous DreamWorks. It’s a pleasant adventure that maintains the allure of the western frontier.