#REVIEW: “SPIRIT UNTAMED”
By Mr. Will Wong
SPIRIT UNTAMED is the second Feature film in the Spirit franchise, arriving 19 years after Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Not to be confused in any way with the titular character from the predecessor film, this story centers on a young girl named Lucky (Isabela Merced) who lives with her aunt Cora (Julianne Moore) after her mother, a horse stunt rider, Milagro (Eiza González) passes away. Lucky inherits her mother’s adventurous spirit and after some antics, she and her aunt pack-up and move to a small town called Miradero where her father James (Jake Gyllenhaal) lives. Here, she befriends two young riders in Prudence (Marsai Martin) and Abigal (McKenna Grace) and also meets a free-spirited Mustang named Spirit. Lucky identifies with him after finding little to connect with in her new town. Hendricks (Walton Goggins) is a horse wrangler out to pursue Spirit and his herd to sell off at an auction and Lucy makes it her mission to save him from a life of captivity.
While the previous film centered much on the fascinating adventures of its titular character, this follow-up directed by Elaine Bogan and Ennio Torresan Jr. in the same vein honours the horse, while examining the notion that perhaps humans can be both their greatest friend and also enemy. Writers Aury Wallington and Kristin Hahn infuse modern sensibilities into the story, examining this in a female voice, the importance of Lucky‘s Mexican heritage, exploring grief and finding one’s self through their true spirit animal. While these are character tropes that have been seen before, the Film’s intended young target audience has some valuable lessons to learn in respecting life and that maybe change isn’t always such a bad thing.
Merced as usual, delivers a great performance not only in her voice work as a girl with gumption, but also performing some the Film’s musical numbers as well, including a duet with Eiza González titled “Fearless”. Gyllenhaal seems like a surprising casting choice but is endearing as Lucky‘s estranged father, eager to connect again with her but realizing also there is only so much he can to to rein her in. Goggins is effective in the villain role, fed-up with this young girl who keeps getting in his way of doing his job.
The visuals are something to behold in the Film, with stunning CGI, that captures the magical beauty of the Frontier, and also the special bond between Lucky and Spirit that makes the journey worthwhile. While new techniques are used, the Film still honours the look and feel of the previous installment. The Film arrives at time where families are in need more than ever for an escape for an afternoon and this love story between a girl and a lovable horse should find a place with its young audience.
Universal Pictures Canada release SPIRIT UNTAMED in theatres Friday, June 4, 2021.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre.