Directed by: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook
Written by:John Fusco
Starring: Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi
Released: June 20, 2002
Grade: B+

There’s an increasing familiarity with animated films which is taking the gloss off some of the more recent releases.  Ten years ago, Disney had monopolised the market and we’d usually only see one animated flick a year.  These days, you can see one every month and the public are toughening up when judging what and what not to see.

Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron (a long title I know) is from Dreamworks, the same production company who made Shrek, Antz, The Prince Of Egypt and Chicken Run.  It’s quite unusual in that the animals in the film (mostly horses) don’t talk.  They neigh and snort like regular horses when you think about it, this is unusual.  There’s hardly any dialogue at all.  A few humans speak and Matt Damon does some light narration but aside, it’s just the background noises and the loud film score from Bryan Adams and Hans Zimmer that you’re likely to notice.

The story’s simplicity will help it appeal to kids.  It’s the Old West and a feisty stallion is captured by humans to be broken in and used as a work horse.  Refusing to give in to the humans, the stallion escapes captivity and begins a journey to find his way back home to be with his mother and friends.  Along the way, he’ll meet some interesting characters and also an attractive mare to spice things up.

It’s less that 80 minutes in duration so make sure you don’t arrive late but do come with children or else there’s little point.  Unlike other recent animations, there’s nothing here to appeal to adults and only kids will derive any satisfaction.  My cinema was packed with plenty of them and their laughter and screams suggested they liked what they saw.

Bryan Adams’s songs are well written and might pop up again in the Oscar season.  But without funny talking animals, this Spirit isn’t going to set the box-office alight, have customers returning for repeat business, or have them cashing in on cheap merchandise and happy meals.  All given, it’s not going to be the film on the tip of kids’ tongues this winter.