We first met fiery mustang stallion Spirit almost 20 years ago in DreamWorks’ Oscar-nominated film, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.” The animated movie, starring Matt Damon voicing the character of Spirit, focused on the horse’s journey becoming the leader of his herd after being captured and breaking free, while falling in love with a mare named Rain.
By Victoria Lim
To continue Spirit’s story, DreamWorks launched the animated Netflix series “Spirit Riding Free” in 2017, to capture young female audiences by introducing viewers to Spirit through the adventures of his best human friend, Lucky and her gal pals Pru and Abigail.
All four are prominently featured in “Spirit Untamed,” the latest chapter in DreamWorks’ saga. Written by Aury Wallington, the creator of the Netflix series, she maintains the continuity of the show with themes of strong, young female leads, the bonds of friendship, the importance of kindness, and having the courage of being true to who you are.
The opening scenes of beautiful and fearless horse-riding stunt performers, featuring Lucky’s mother Milagro (Eiza Gonzalez) intercut with Lucky as a toddler with her father Jim (Jake Gyllenhaal) watching and cheering quickly set the premise of the movie. Perhaps too predictably, Milagro is killed during a stunt she’s known for within the first few minutes and we catch-up with Lucky as a pre-teen living in her grandparents’ home in the city, under the care of her Aunt Cora (Julianne Moore).
It’s alluded that Lucky (Isabela Merced) has the same love for animals and as daring a personality as her late mother. Fed up with her antics, her grandfather sends her and Aunt Cora to Miradero, a small town in the frontier, by train to reunite with her father after a decade.
On the way, out of her rail car window, she sees Spirit and his herd running free. In her efforts not to lose sight of Spirit, Lucky almost falls off the train and is rescued by gruff stranger, Hendricks (Walton Goggins).
Across the street from the Miradero train station is Granger’s Corral, and Lucky is drawn to the horse performers, who recognize her immediately, remarking her likeness to her late mother. She meets Pru (Marsai Martin) and Abigail (McKenna Grace) and they become quick friends. However, seeing her father after 10 years doesn’t go as smoothly.
As father and daughter begin to reconnect, Hendricks reappears, having captured Spirit and uses harsh methods to try to break him. Lucky’s kind and curious nature eventually gain Spirit’s trust. Unsurprisingly, Lucky’s father forbids her from being near horses because of the memories of how her mother died. She defies him, and during a visit with Spirit, he lets her ride him, and the horse breaks free from the stable.
Pru and Abigail rescue the inexperienced horse rider Lucky, who is forced to jump from Spirit into their arms as they approach a precarious canyon. Spirit continues on without her, presumably to his herd. That night, once back at home, Lucky sneaks out to search for Spirit, who finds her, along with his herd. Hendricks and his men appear suddenly and capture all of the horses except for Spirit. Lucky and Spirit enlist the help of Pru and Abigail to save the herd. The three set out on horseback to face the rustlers. If you are afraid of heights, there’s one part of this journey that may make you squeamish (It’s not called the “Ridge of Regret” for nothing).
The confrontation between the girls and rustlers moves fast and I won’t spoil it for you. Eventually Pru’s father Granger (Andre Braugher), Jim and Aunt Cora catch up. Instead of Jim fearing Lucky’s resemblance to her mother, the traits are cherished and celebrated.
Lucky’s (real name: Fortuna) Hispanic heritage is touched on in elements like language and clothing, but I wish more of that was explored. Those moments ended up feeling gratuitous. Young girls will appreciate the “girl-power” of this movie. It’s a sweet film and a decent addition to the Spirit franchise.
“Spirit Untamed” is rated PG, and opens in theaters Friday, June 4. Check out the trailer below: