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Review: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is possibly the most disturbing animated film ever made.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Photo: DreamWorks Pictures

Possibly the most disturbing animated film ever made, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron tells the sexed-up story of an untamed, anatomically-incorrect mustang torn between his love for his family, his girlfriend and the English-speaking Native Americans that seek to tame him with tender-loving care. As if reacting to their inability to speak, the horses in this politically-correct western wonderland are so prone to excessive neighing and head shaking they must be itching for a Disney corral. Just as Spirit slips n’ slides into the world, a quick stare n’ lick at his glowing mother insinuates both a cryptic Oedipal complex and an insatiable oral fixation. One silly graphic-match and cross fade later (Spirit’s freedom is evoked via fabulous shadow play), Spirit is all grown up and galloping through the prairie with his best friend, the great American bald eagle. Silence is golden in Spirit though filmmaker-insecurity seemingly cripples what little subtlety lies past the film’s hamfisted horizon whenever a bored Matt Damon gives a voice to the horse’s inner-human spirit with pointless, “well, duh” narration. Once Spirit meets Little Creek, his Native American kindred spirit, this hokey toon for leftist tots posits an idyllic long-lost West tamed by what could easily be mistaken for Abraham Lincoln’s animal incarnation. For a freedom fighter, Spirit is a hardcore traditionalist—he scoffs at the blue paint worn by the film’s Native Americans and the pre-marital horseplay of two young ponies. Still, it’s refreshing to hear Spirit acknowledge the pervasive sense of inter-special sexual energy when his Damon voices contempt for Little Creek’s love-struck relationship with Rain, the rambunctious horse’s prospective mare girlfriend. Spirit and Rain date oh-so cute (he says he wants to share his “homeland” with her) in a forest amid gently flowing water and falling rose petals possibly left over from some lost animated version of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” video. Spirit should pacify curious young kids wary of American history but what about all those mommies and daddies who’ve taken Amtrak across the Great Plains and know deep down inside that a few Spirits had to die in order to pave the way for the Northern Pacific railroad? Sure, Spirit may know the meaning of sacrifice and he can certainly cut a mean beeline across cliffs yet everything feels extra-maudlin when set to bloodcurdling anthems from Bryan Adams.

Cast: Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi Director: Kelly Ashbury, Lorna Cook Screenwriter: John Fusco Distributor: DreamWorks Pictures Running Time: 82 min Rating: G Year: 2002 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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