Spirit Untamed

Spirit Untamed

2021, PG, 87 min. Directed by Elaine Bogan, Ennio Torresan Jr.. Voices by Isabela Merced, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marsai Martin, Mckenna Grace, Julianne Moore, Walton Goggins, Eiza González, Andre Braugher.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., June 4, 2021

What's the line between reinventing a story for different generations, and just slapping any old vaguely recognizable IP on top of a generic, off-the-peg story? That's the real story of Spirit Untamed, the latest attempt to bring the story of horses and their humans into audience's hearts.

2002's original Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was a treacly if well-meaning animated revisionist tale of the Western Frontier, with the displacement of the Lakota and the ravaging of the land by the American military told from the viewpoint of a Kiger Mustang stallion (quite literally told, in a voice-over inner monologue by Matt Damon). Alongside the piratical antics of Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, it was DreamWorks Animation's way to push back against the belief that the studio was just a Disney knockoff, dependent on anthropomorphic animals (a very brief experiment that ended a year later with Madagascar and Shark Tale).

That may be the version that most adults know, unless they have kids who adored the sort-of-spin-off Spirit Riding Free, the 2017 tween-friendly series for Netflix that shifted attention away from Spirit and on to Lucky Prescott, a pugnacious and adventurous young girl who is sent to live with her father in the small frontier town of Miradero. Spirit Untamed is a soft reboot of Spirit Riding Free equally tween friendly, a little glossier and a little more conventional in the animation (think a more outdoorsy Doc McStuffins), but still centered on Lucky (now voiced by Merced). Yet again she has been dispatched by her glowering grandpa to live with her somewhat estranged father, rancher Jim (Gyllenhaal), who still lives with the guilt of Lucky's mother's death. Lucky befriends two local girls her age, gutsy Abigail (Grace) and boisterous Pru (Martin), and they set off on horseback adventures: in this case, rescuing Spirit (relegated to a supporting slot) from cruel wranglers and rustlers, headed by the malicious Hendricks (Goggins). If you can't guess, lessons are learned, villains get their comeuppance, and yet again prissy aunt Cora (Moore) gets a little of that East Coast formality whittled away by the friendly folks of Miradero.

Fans of the original film (which has undergone a benevolent reappraisal in the intervening years) will probably wonder why there is so little Spirit in Spirit Untamed. Kids who grew up on the show (or are still growing, since the Netflix show wrapped its eighth season in 2019, season 9 is still reportedly in development, and there was a new season of the Riding Academy spinoff last year) will wonder why they're retelling a story they already know. This almost feels like the Japanese anime industry's habit of dropping non-canonical and recap movies of a successful OVA as both fan service for diehards and an on-ramp for new audiences. Unfortunately, the formulaic Spirit Untamed never seems to know which trail it's taking.

Showtimes

AMC Dine-In Tech Ridge 10

12625 N. I-35, 512/640-1533, www.amctheatres.com

Wed., June 23

CC/DVS 7:50

Cinemark 20 and XD

N. I-35 & FM 1825, 512/989-8535

Cost for 3-D and XD shows is regular ticket price plus a premium.

Wed., June 23

digital 1:00

Cinemark Cedar Park

1335 E. Whitestone, Cedar Park, 800/326-3264

Call theatre for complete list of movies and showtimes.

Wed., June 23

digital 12:40, 3:10

Wed., June 23

digital 5:10, 7:55

Cinemark Round Rock

4401 N. I-35, Round Rock, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium. Call theatre for complete March 26-28 showtimes.

Wed., June 23

digital 1:05

Thu., June 24

digital 1:05

Cinemark Southpark Meadows

9900 S. I-35, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Wed., June 23

digital 3:30, 8:45

Wed., June 23

3:20, 5:20

Thu., June 24

3:20, 5:20

City Lights Theatre

420 Wolf Ranch Parkway, Georgetown, 512/868-9922

Wed., June 23

1:50, 4:30, 6:50

Evo Cinemas Belterra

166 Hargraves Ste. A-100, 512/457-0700, www.evocinemas.com/drippingsprings

Wed., June 23

10:30am, 12:45, 3:30, 6:15

Thu., June 24

12:45, 3:30, 6:15

Fri., June 25

10:30am, 12:45, 3:30, 6:15

Sat., June 26

10:30am, 12:45, 3:30, 6:15

Sun., June 27

2:15, 3:15, 6:00

Mon., June 28

12:45, 3:30, 6:00

Tue., June 29

12:45, 3:30, 6:00

EVO Entertainment

3200 Kyle Crossing, Kyle, 512/523-9009, www.evo-entertainment.com

Wed., June 23

10:15am, 12:30, 2:45, 5:00, 7:15

Thu., June 24

11:00am, 1:15, 3:30, 5:45, 8:00

Film Alley Bastrop

1600 Chestnut St, Bastrop, 512/321-0123, bastrop.filmalley.net/

Wed., June 23

11:40am, 5:15, 7:40

Thu., June 24

1:50, 4:35

Gateway Theatre

9700 Stonelake, 512/416-5700

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Wed., June 23

CC 1:45
CC/DVS 1:45

Thu., June 24

CC 1:45
CC/DVS 1:45

Hometown Cinemas

120 MLK Jr. Industrial Blvd. W, Lockhart, 512/398-4100, www.hometowncinemas.com

Wed., June 23

12:20

Thu., June 24

12:20

AMC Lakeline 9

11200 Lakeline Mall Dr., Cedar Park, 512/335-4793

Discounts daily before 6pm.

Wed., June 23

CC/DVS 6:00

Moviehouse & Eatery

8300 FM 620 N., Bldg. B, 512/501-3520, www.themoviehouse.com/trails/

Wed., June 23

12:00

Thu., June 24

12:00

Moviehouse & Eatery - Lantana Place

7415 Southwest Pkwy., Bldg. 7, 512/572-0770, www.themoviehouse.com/lantana/

Wed., June 23

3:00

Thu., June 24

3:30

Southwest Theaters at Lake Creek 7

13729 Research #1500, 512/291-3158, www.southwesttheaters.com

$6.50 children and senior tickets (all-day), $5 Tuesdays (all tickets), Bargain Matinees before 5pm daily.

Wed., June 23

1:00, 4:30

Thu., June 24

11:05am, 1:00, 4:30

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Spirit Untamed, Elaine Bogan, Ennio Torresan Jr.

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