Spirit Untamed (3 stars)

Spirit Untamed

Sweet and empowered animated adventure that boasts a star-studded voice cast

If the title sounds familiar it's because DreamWorks's Spirit Untamed is a spin-off of the 2002 Oscar-nominated, modestly successful animation Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron and is based on the related Netflix series Spirit Riding Free. Like the recent Black Beauty, it has been reimagined with a young female protagonist at the fore but, unlike that catastrophically misjudged effort, the result is a solidly enjoyably and reassuringly empowered tale which evolves into a girls' own adventure, as three courageous pre-teens set off to right a wrong.

Directors Elaine Bogan and Ennio Torresan have assembled a slightly stupendous voice cast, with Julianne Moore, Jake Gyllenhaal, Andre Braugher, Walton Goggins, and Dora And The Lost City Of Gold's sparky Isabela Merced as the lead, Fortuna 'Lucky' Prescott. Lucky lost her daring circus performer mother Milagro (Eiza González) to a riding accident as an infant and she's lived with her Aunt Cora (Moore) and grandfather (Joe Hart) ever since, with her father Jim (Gyllenhaal) too devastated to care for her.

Visiting Jim some years later for the summer, the rebellious Lucky connects with the titular wild kiger mustang, after some initial reluctance on the part of the horse. The pair take on a gang of bandits / wranglers who have kidnapped Spirit's herd, with the help of two similarly plucky peers: goofball Abigail (Mckenna Grace) and the wise Pru (Marsai Martin).

The story feels overly workshopped, containing as it does so many familiar, and carefully crowd-pleasing, elements, while the animation can appear a little blocky and one-dimensional – and the thoroughly hissable villains hardly help put meat on these bones. There are, however, some appealing character designs and striking depictions of perilous landscapes, and the uplifting musical anthems (including 'Fearless', 'You Belong' and 'Better With You') are sure to be a hit with the target demographic. Spirit Untamed is not terribly original but the bravery of these girls is inspiring and, for those looking to entertain youngsters, it's sweet and stirring summer fun.

Available to watch in cinemas from Friday 30 July.

Spirit Untamed

  • 3 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 1h 27min
  • U
  • Directed by: Elaine Bogan, Ennio Torresan
  • Written by: Aury Wallington, Kristin Hahn
  • Cast: Isabela Merced, Marsai Martin, Mckenna Grace, Walton Goggins, Andre Braugher, Julianne Moore, Jake Gyllenhaal
  • UK release: 30 July 2021

A rebellious youngster, Lucky Prescott (Isabela Merced) finds a kindred spirit in a wild mustang, Spirit. When a wrangler threatens Spirit and his herd, Lucky and her new friends set out to save the horses.