28 November 2006

Ink Blots XL - Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Its InkBlots #40! I had to look up the Roman Numeral Guide for this one.

In 2002, Spirited Away took home the award for Best Animated Feature Film - and rightly so. But when you are up against one of the greatest films ever made, its easy to get overlooked as was the also nominated Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Back before Dreamworks teamed up with PDI to perfect the computer animated fart joke and pop culture reference, Jeffrey Katzenberg's Dreamworks animated studio made beautiful traditionally animated films. Spirit presents the untamed frontier of North America where wild horses ran free. Throughout the film, the titular horse Spirit runs through gorgeous canyons and fields as he seeks simply to maintain his freedom. The animation truly captures the majesty of the mustang and though many seek to tame him, Spirit will not be broken.

The story of the film is fairly straight forward, and that's the beauty of it. There is not some ridiculous convoluted plot driving the movie, rather the simple desire of Spirit to feel the wind through his mane in the open fields. While the film is narrated by Spirit, during the movie, none of the animals including the horses actually speak. Instead, their artfully drawn eyes and body movements convey their thoughts. Especially now in 2006 with so many talking animal movies, it was nice to see an movie about animals that maintained some realism and did not strip the "heroes" of their dignity by making them spout out idiotic one-liners. The relationship that Spirit develops with Little Creek, a Native American that captures him, is also touching. There are so many things going for this film that hearkens back to simpler times. Unfortunately, there is one big thing against it... the music.

While a Bryan Adams song or two may have fit the mood of the film, it seems that every major plot development is accompanied by Bryan, and Bryan is just not that great (at least in my mind) to justify his monopoly of this film's soundtrack. It's the same problem that Disney's Tarzan ran into with Phil Collins. When a single artist sings so many songs in the film, they all tend to blend together. None of the songs is horrible, its just a little too much when all of them run back to back.

This may not be the greatest film ever made, but it's fantastic depiction of the American West and of the simple yearning to be free make it stand out. It's $73 million box office fell short of its $80 million budget, but hopefully the timeless nature of this films subject matter will allow Spirit to age well and gain appreciation over time while some of Dreamwork's other films become horribly outdated. There really aren't a lot of animated films about horses, but this one does the species proud, and if it weren't for Bryan Adams overload, Spirit would probably earn even higher than its B+.

2 comments:

longtimereaderfirsttimeposter said...

dude... what happened to your template?! *gasp*

Chip Chief said...

sorry, but change is inevitable. =)