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Blu-ray Review: Spirit Untamed

September 28, 2021

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

Spirit Untamed, one of the latest animated offerings from DreamWorks, is a spinoff of both their 2002 film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and the Netflix series Spirit Riding Free, and it’s the very definition of generic entertainment made to capitalize on an existing IP.

The film mainly follows the template of the show, expanding the adventures of Lucky Prescott (Isabela Merced), Abigail Stone (Mckenna Grace) and Prudence Granger (Marsai Martin), a trio of equestrian girls who dub themselves the PALs based around their initials. For obvious reasons, the characters have been given celebrity voices for the movie.

The prologue shows us that Lucky’s mother (Eiza González), who performed stunts on horseback, died in a riding accident when she was young, leaving her to be raised mainly by her aunt Cora (Julianne Moore). A decade later, the adolescent Lucky goes back to live with her estranged father Jim (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the Wild West town of Miradero.

At first she resents the move to a small town, until she befriends a wild stallion. While her father forbids her from riding the horse due to her mother’s accident, Lucky tames him using apples and names him Spirit, forming a bond with the animal. But when a band of horse wranglers led by Hendricks (Walton Goggins) plot to steal the wild horses, Lucky sets out with her new friends from town, Abigail and Prudence, to rescue them.

This is an example of a movie that isn’t actively bad, just bland and uninspired. The characters are generic and reduced to one or two traits (Lucky is adventurous and a bit rebellious, while Abigail is quirky and likes to sing songs and play the ukelele!), and the simplistic story lacks much excitement for all but the youngest audiences, with a number of expected messages about bravery, courage and being yourself.

The animation itself, which was outsourced to Jellyfish Pictures to cut costs, also looks surprisingly cheap. The studio goes for soft, pastel backgrounds that just end up appearing sort of flat and don’t always match the 3D character designs. The production was completed remotely during the pandemic, but this is no excuse considering the other films made under these circumstances.

Despite being a quasi-sequel or reboot, Spirit Untamed actually has very little in common with the traditionally animated 2002 film, which was one of DreamWorks’ more subdued early offerings. While it is far from a bad choice for its target audience of mostly young girls (and boys) who love horses, it’s hard to see Spirit Untamed gaining much of an audience outside of this narrow demographic, and it is pretty mediocre for an offering from one of the major animation studios.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The disc comes with over an hour of bonus material, including your standard featurettes, as well as sing-alongs, crafting tutorials, and the obligatory “how to draw” pieces that are aimed squarely at the kids. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package.

Finding Your Spirit (9 minutes, 20 seconds): Members of the cast and crew talk about the characters and themes of the film.

Home on the Range (3 minutes, 20 seconds): Mckenna Grace sings a movie-specific version of the song, with lyrics on screen.

Snack Time – S’Mores (2 minutes, 18 seconds): Instructions on how to make the campfire snack at home in the oven.

Deleted/Extended Scenes (7 minutes, 3 seconds): Presented with intros by director Elaine Bogan, co-director Ennio Torresan Jr., producer Karen Foster and storyboard artist Daniel Tal.

Campaign Launch – Extended (1 minute, 46 seconds)

Bubbles (1 minute, 25 seconds)

Elk Stampede (3 minutes, 49 seconds)

Behind the Voices – The Cast (9 minutes, 59 seconds): The voice actors briefly talk about their characters in the film.

Isabela Merced – Lucky Prescott (1 minute, 9 seconds)

Marsai Martin – Prudence Granger (1 minute, 12 seconds)

Mckenna Grace – Abigail Stone (1 minute, 10 seconds)

Walton Goggins – Hendricks (1 minute, 13 seconds)

Andre Braugher – Al Granger (1 minute, 18 seconds)

Eiza Gonzalex – Milagro Navarro Prescott (1 minute, 10 seconds)

Julianne Moore – Cora Prescott (1 minute, 22 seconds)

Jake Gyllenhall – Jim Prescott  (1 minute, 25 seconds)

Cowgirls Rule (4 minutes, 16 seconds): The predominantly female cast and crew discuss the girl power messages of the film.

Drawing Spirit – Spirit Untamed (15 minutes, 38 seconds): Story artist Wendy Sullivan teaches us how to draw some of the human and animal characters.

Lucky (2 minutes, 31 seconds)

Spirit (2 minutes, 37 seconds

Pru (2 minutes, 41 seconds)

Chica Linda (2 minutes, 33 seconds)

Abigail (2 minutes, 18 seconds)

Boomerang (2 minutes, 40 seconds)

How To…

Create Your Own Indoor ‘Campfire’ (2 minutes, 11 seconds)

How to Ukelele (2 minutes, 20 seconds)

Snack Time – S’Mores (2 minutes, 18 seconds):

Abigail’s Hand Shadow Secrets (2 minutes 42 seconds)

How to Zoetrope (6 minutes, 0 seconds)

Sing-Alongs

Home on the Range (3 minutes, 20 seconds)

Fearless (English Version) (4 minutes, 16 seconds)

Fearless (Valiente Duet) (1 minute, 59 seconds)

You Belong (3 minutes, 30 seconds)

Feature Commentary with director Elaine Bogan, co-director Ennio Torresan, and producer Karen Foster

Spirit Untamed is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 88 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: August 31st, 2021

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