Spirit Untamed: The Movie
(Isabela Merced, Marsai Martin, Mckenna Grace, Julianne Moore, Jake Gyllenhaal, et al / Blu-ray + DVD / PG / 2021 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Overview: Spirit Untamed: The Movie is a story of adventure, family and friendship. Free-spirited Lucky Prescott moves to Miradero to join her estranged father.
She is decidedly unimpressed with the sleepy town until she discovers a unique tie to her late mother who was a fearless horse-riding stunt performer.
She quickly forms a bond with a wild mustang named Spirit and makes two new pals who love horses as much as she does.
When a heartless wrangler plans to capture Spirit and his herd, Lucky and her friends set off on an epic journey to rescue the horse who has given her an unbreakable connection to her mother’s legacy.
Blu-ray Verdict: Interestingly enough, this is not only the very first theatrically released animated film to be based off a Netflix exclusive series, but also the first animated feature film work from all its big-name stars re: Jake Gyllenhaal, Julianne Moore, Marsai Martin, Walton Goggins and Eiza González.
OK, well, taking it from the top and any kids that watched Dreamworks’ original SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON (2002) are now at least in their mid-20s and many likely have kids of their own!
That original film featured old school animation, and provides a nice comparison for today’s computerized drawing. However, from a story and character perspective this is less a sequel to that film, and more a spinoff of the original Netflix series, of which there have been more than 50 episodes.
Lucky Prescott (voiced by Isabela Merced, Dora in DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, 2019) is a rambunctious youngster being attended to by her Aunt Cora (Oscar winner Julianne Moore) at the home of Lucky’s wealthy and now candidate-for-Governor grandfather.
With no time for her shenanigans, grandpa ships off Lucky and Cora to be reunited with Lucky’s father, Jim Prescott (Jake Gyllenhaal). The two haven’t seen each other since Lucky’s mother died tragically ten years ago.
On the train ride to Miradero, Lucky has a connection with a beautiful wild stallion she names Spirit. The two share a bond of wildness and independence, though soon enough Spirit is being held captive by mean-spirited horse wranglers.
Lucky and her father have an awkward reunion as he tries to keep her safe, unwilling to admit the free-spirited nature she shares with her mother, who once rode with the Los Caballeros, a local trick-riding team.
Her mother’s clothes, boots, and posters open Lucky’s eyes to a world that feels like home. She befriends not just Spirit, but also a couple of local girls, Pru (Marsai Martin) and Abigail (Mckenna Grace), who are drawn to Lucky’s energy, but also recognize the danger she’s in going up against the evil wrangler (Walton Goggins).
What follows is an adventure with terrific visuals and enough action to keep the three and five year old’s that I watched the film with glued to the screen!
Heck Mountain and the Ridge of Regret seemed to be especially exciting for them, and I personally got a kick out of the importance of math (a word problem) in keeping Lucky on track.<
The film clocks in under 90 minutes, which is just right for most kids. The songs (Taylor Swift sings the trailer song) didn’t seem to make much impression, but the kid characters did.
From a grown-up perspective, it’s hard to miss the fact that the adult males aren’t the best role models, and even Abigail’s young brother Snips (Lucian Perez) spends most of his time wreaking mischievous trouble.
However, the lack of other political messages was a relief, and female empowerment in youngsters is always a welcome story line.
The film is co-directed by Elaine Bogan and Ennio Torreson. Writing credits go to John Fusco (the original Spirit film), Aury Wallington (the TV series) and Kristin Hahn and Katherine Nolfi.
The all-star voice cast is a nice complement to the visuals (especially the mountains and clouds), and the message about independence and finding one’s own way in life. It should also be noted that the film is rated PG, not G. [F.G.] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
• DELETED / EXTENDED SCENES
• FINDING YOUR SPIRIT: Meet the cast and filmmakers behind SPIRIT UNTAMED and discover how they brought this incredible story to life. Find out how this film fits into the overall Spirit story and learn the secrets behind the animation process
• BEHIND THE VOICES – THE CAST: It’s always fun to see the people behind the voices. In this series of short featurettes, we not only meet the cast but we discover what characteristics they share with their on-screen personas and how they inhabit them
• COWGIRLS RULE: This featurette goes into more detail about the female-focused story and explains why it’s not just a “girls like ponies” movie
• DRAWING SPIRIT - SPIRIT UNTAMED: A unique look and chance to learn from one of the talented artists how they bring the characters, both human and equine, to life
• CREATE YOUR OWN INDOOR ‘CAMPFIRE:’ Using crepe paper and LED lights, build your very own campfire at home!
• HOW TO UKELELE: Discover how to create your very own ukulele at home. Then, learn some simple chords so you can impress your friends and family around the campfire
• SNACK TIME – S’MORES: During their adventure, Lucky and her friends enjoy a campfire snack that we all know, and love-s’mores! This tasty “how to” feature will teach viewers to safely make their own traditional toasted treats along with a selection of not so traditional recipes
• ABIGAIL’S HAND SHADOW SECRETS: Ever wish you could tell stories using hand shadows, just like Abigail? Well now you can! With the help of a hand shadow master, a simple lamp and an old sheet, anyone can learn how to create cool creatures with nothing but your two hands
• HOW TO ZOETROPE: Lucky Prescott discovers her mother’s horse-riding talent when she finds a zoetrope at her father’s house. This “how to” video teaches fans of the film how to build their own and bring it to life using the drawings they learn in the “drawing spirit” feature
• SING-ALONGS: Watch these fun lyric videos featuring songs from the film and sing-along around your own ‘campfire’
• FEATURE COMMENTARY: Commentary with director Elaine Bogan, co-director Ennio Torresan, and producer Karen Foster
Official Movie Trailer
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