WARNING FOR CONCERNED PARENTS: This review contains vast galloping herds of jokes about the gross things horses do. Also, a big big barrel of Bryan Adams hate. So don’t let babies or people who act like babies read this.
Do you like horses?
Do you like Bryan Adams’ music?
No, I mean it. Do you R-E-A-L-L-Y like Bryan Adams’ music?
Lots and lots of horses?
Because if you are “meh” about horses and dislike Bryan Adams, boy howdy is this going to be a long movie.
Picture Dreamworks animation in the late ’90s. Jeffry Katzenberg wants to outdo his old bosses at Disney so bad, that every movie he makes is going to basically be, “The Lion King” – But More So. In practice, this meant “Everything we assume people liked about ‘Lion King’, just lots more of it.” Which meant more random and distracting celebrity voices, more big damn epic ballads, more musical numbers, more action scenes, more big special effects showpieces, and more people falling off of high places. “Spirit” contains work by many of the animators who were at Disney during the making of “The Lion King”, so it at least looks really nice.
But unfortunately, the story and characters are boring as hell. I almost wish they’d dropped the other shoe and let the animal characters talk. It would have cut through the pretension (this is obvious Oscar-bait on par with “Pocahontas”), and it would have avoided the three dumbest dicisions the producers made in making this movie:
1) The horses can only communicate with each other using horse sounds. Which quickly results in bad flashbacks to Chewbacca’s family in the “Star Wars Holiday Special”. (And it actually made me wonder why this movie doesn’t get as much grief as that one does.)
2) Instead of meaningful dialogue, have loads and loads of narration by a bored-as-hell Matt Damon. Use said narration to make sure that everyone, even the really stupid people in the audience, knows exactly what’s going on in any given scene.
3) And if the narration is insufficient in making sure that there is absolutely no question as to what Spirit is doing or thinking, have Bryan Adams sing a song about it.
There are a LOT of Bryan Adams songs in this movie.
A lot of people dislike Bryan Adams. You may have guessed, dear reader, that I am among them. It could be his bludgeon-subtle lyrics. It could be his especially grating version of the “Hunger-dunger-dang” vocal style that makes adult-contemporary stations such a slog. Or it could be that he really, really sucks.
So what we’re left with here is a movie where horses run around to the lilting sounds of Bryan Adams. Let’s see what’s there to make fun of in it…
The Best Parts:
42 seconds in – BIG DAMN EPIC TRACKING SHOT!!! (Honestly, the animation is *so* pretty. This movie, when all is said and done, is a beautiful disaster.)
3 minutes in –
HORSE BIRTH DOES NOT WORK THIS WAY!!!
Really, this is up there with the Mariner drinking his own pee as far as Uncomfortable Hero Introductions.
5 minutes in – I can’t believe I am going to say something as crude as this, but that tells you how boring this movie is. I am amazed that the Internet has not done anything with this “Spirit gets a milk mustache after nursing from his mother” scene.
9 minutes in – For those of you keeping track, this is the second Bryan Adams song in a row.
11 minutes in – And suddenly, this is “Ferngully McAvatar With Wolves”. With horses. And Bryan Adams.
15 minutes in – “But we don’t know how to live in the wild!!!”
19 minutes in – You know what, at this point, it is easier to just do this and have it go for the whole movie. And since I spent the summer at a lake with a family of Bald Eagles, I can do it with some authority:
EAGLES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!!!
24 minutes in – “Standin’ on yo momma’s porch! / You told me that you’d WAIT forever! / Oh, Hunger dunger dang! / That summer seemed to LAST forever!”
26 minutes in – Thankfully, Bryan does not sing “Somewhere Out There” during this part.
28 minutes in – “Hey there, I’m Little Creek! I will be your Purposefully Inoffensive And Therefore Utterly Boring Native American Character this evening.”
32 minutes in – It just struck me here that history says that guys like the Colonel eventually won in the end. What a fun movie!
34 minutes in – Obligatory Horse-S**t Gag!
35 minutes in – “We REALLY don’t know how to survive in the wild! We won’t be happy out there!”
27 minutes in – “Well, I am totally going to mount that before the movie’s over.”
40 minutes in – Oh, hey! We’ve gone for almost ten whole minutes with no Bryan Adams!
42 minutes in – I figure Dreamworks has never even seen a Bald Eagle, like, ever. Outside of U.S. currency, I mean.
46 minutes in – “And stay away from Flesh Fairs!”
47 minutes in – I should point out, at this point, that I am not a horse person. I do not get this “thing” most women have for horses. So forgive me if I am wrong here, but wouldn’t a horse in real life just mount the female horse and leave?
49 minutes in – I’m pretty sure this scene wouldn’t end well in real life either.
52 minutes in – Aw, it’s just like Raptor Red. But boring.
56 minutes in – “It was the summer of SIXTY nine!!!”
57 minutes in – It’s funny how “The Lion King” got the same point across with a couple lines of dialogue.
58 minutes in – Aw, it’s just like that one episode of “Wolf’s Rain”. But boring.
59 minutes in – “But really, I have no idea what is going on because I am a f***ing horse.”
1 hour, 3 minutes in – “Yay! I just destroyed a sizable portion of the wild west wilderness I was trying to save!”
1 hour, 7 minutes in – “Crash Bandicoot” Chase Scene! (It is basically a forward-scrolling platformer from Spirit and Little Creek’s point of view, where they must leap or dodge obstacles. What would you call it?)
1 hour, 8 minutes in – I take it this isn’t going to end like “Thelma and Louise” but boring?
1 hour, 11 minutes in – “Oh there must be a pegasus / with a smile on her face! / When she thought up that I should be with you!”
1 hour, 12 minutes in – This scene brought to you by the Title Significance Flutter Pony.
1 hour, 16 minutes in – “WOOOOOAAAAAAAAAHHH I’M GONNA RUNTOYOU!!!”
Classic Quotes: This is just going to have to go for the whole narration:
“My heart galloped through the skies that night- back to my herd, where I belonged. I wondered if they missed me as much as I missed them.” – Spirit
Things I Learned from this Movie:
* – It’s fun to taunt buffalo. Try it next time you encounter one.
* – Mostly, all horses should be allowed to run wild and free. Because like the saying says, “let your horses run wild and free.”
Even if they are domestic horses. Because domestic animals are ace at knowing how to survive in the wild.
Things That Can Save Any Movie:
Cool Creatures? HORSIES!!!
Good Soundtrack? God, no. F*** you, Bryan Adams.
Hot Guys? Just a bunch of horses, if you’re into that.
Pretty Scenery? or Nifty Animation/Effects/Art Direction? Oh my yes. This is tied with “Disney’s Dinosaur” as far as “Prettiest Sh**ty Animated Feature”. Except that “Dinosaur” is actually *MORE* boring.
Drinking Game Potential? Drink for every time you are distracted by Spirit’s creepy man-eyebrows.
Head Movie Potential? You’d fall asleep.
Danny belting out a few bars of “Straight From the Heart”.
A Dreamworks Animation Film released in 2002. Written by John Fusco and directed by Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook.
An exceedingly bored-sounding Matt Damon and James Cromwell
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