Spirit Untamed is a conventional family-friendly animated adventure that honors teamwork, friendship and female empowerment. And whoa… there are wild horses. And some catchy tunes. All that makes this second installment of a franchise that began with the 2002 Oscar-nominated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron worth the ride. There’s not much new to gain, but nothing to lose either. So if the spirit moves you, saddle up.
Spirit Untamed is about a headstrong girl named Lucky Prescott (Isabela Merced, Dora and the Lost City of Gold) who thrives on taking risks and pushing boundaries. She’s a good kid, but a bit of a wild child, out of place in the East Coast city where she’s been raised by her grandfather and Aunt Cora (Julianne Moore). When Lucky’s antics start to go a bit too far, Aunt Cora picks up stakes and heads for Miradero – the sleepy frontier town where Lucky’s father Jim (Jake Gyllenhaal) lives. Apparently he ditched his dad-duties after Lucky’s mother Milagro (Eiza González) died in a freak horseback-riding stunt performance. He was too distraught to raise a toddler. Let’s just hope he’s ready for a rambunctious pre-teen!
At first, Lucky isn’t very impressed with her new surroundings. But then she meets a wild mustang – a kindred spirit. And, she befriends two local horseback riders, Abigail Stone (Mckenna Grace) and Pru Granger (Marsai Martin) who become her besties and join Lucky for an epic adventure to rescue the mustang and a bunch of other horses captured by rustlers.
The gal PALs (Pru, Abigail, Lucky) have to traverse terrain that includes the “Ridge of Regret” and “Heck Mountain.” Yikes. They know their plan is nuts, but heck – they have guts, and each other. So have a little faith!
For the most part, the film is heartwarming and fun, especially when Abigail breaks into song (she never travels without her guitar). But there is at least one major flaw in how the narrative plays out. Lucky is just like her mother when it comes to bravery and fearlessness – and perhaps, recklessness. The circumstances of mom’s death on horseback are sorta brushed under the hay, as it were. So while it’s all well and good that Lucky is embracing her mother’s chutzpah and cultural heritage on her own journey to self-discovery, there isn’t much talk of consequences. So kids – be fierce, be brave- but please, don’t try this at home.
Spirit Untamed features a diverse cast and a classic yet modern score from Amie Doherty, DreamWorks Animation’s first female composer on a feature film. More girl power!
The “Fearless” theme feels like original song Oscar bait, and is sung in both English and Spanish by Eiza Gonzalez and Isabela Merced. Check it out below. (note: Taylor Swift does a version too.) I don’t think the film itself will be as memorable as its predecessor come Oscar time, but for now, Spirit Untamed is a decent option to keep the kids entertamed for an hour-and-a-half heading into summer.