Three young women hop into the saddle with Spirit Untamed. This follow-up film to the 2002 film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and the Netflix series Spirit Running Free is more progressive than the average Hollywood western. Spirit Untamed gives young girls a trio of heroines to root for and offers a rollickingly entertaining adventure. It encourages young viewers to run as free as the horses that inspire them. Fuelled by the rebellious spirit of Lucky Prescott (Isabela Merced), Spirit Untamed gives young female audiences their own version of the Wild West. It’s refreshing to see an animated film in which girls can be more than princesses searching for Prince Charming.
Spirit Untamed has only loose connections to Stallion of the Cimarron, but it should cater to fans of the series. Unlike the original film, this follow-up doesn’t feature Matt Damon as a horse. Spirit Untamed doesn’t anthropomorphize its four-legged characters. Instead, it focuses on creating fun and fleshed-out young humans. The film follows Lucky as she joins her aunt Cora (Julianne Moore) in leaving town to live with her estranged father, Jim (Jake Gyllenhaal), for the summer. Jim worries that Lucky will inherit her late mother’s love for horses. He fears that she’ll die in an accident like her mom did. He therefore shields her from the stallions with overprotective caution. Naturally, Jim’s wariness fuels Lucky’s curiosity. She sees in the wild horses of the land her own unbridled spirit.
Lucky finds some rambunctious co-conspirators who teach her how to build trust with the wild horses. Pru Granger (Marsai Martin) is a rising star in the local rodeo whose father is Jim’s reliable ranch hand. Meanwhile, Abigale Stone (Mckenna Grace) embodies life on the range as she casually strums her guitar on horseback. Together, they form a trio of trusty cowgirls when a band of outlaws steals the herd of wild horses.
The girls endeavour to outride the bandits’ train and save the stallions with which Lucky already has a strong bond. Spirit Untamed is full of thrills as the girls brave precarious ledges and rickety ravines while racing against time. The three actors imbue the young cowgirls with fun, carefree energy, which makes Spirit Untamed is a sure-fire adventure for young audiences. Adults, meanwhile, will appreciate how the adventure harnesses the power of positive representation. Offering a mix of laughs and action, plus enough suspense to land the film a PG rating, the film delivers entertainment that the whole family can enjoy. Lucky’s quest should also inspire parents to (re)consider how tightly they hold the reigns on their own foals.
Director Elaine Brogan, making her feature debut after helming series like Trollhunters and 3 Below delivers a refreshingly feminist western. The film also advances on the visual design of its predecessor, offering a rare follow-up film that uses CGI after a hand-drawn original. Like the film’s contemporary sensibility for representation, Spirit Untamed offers a Wild West that speaks to the kids of today.