DreamWorks’ SPIRIT UNTAMED is a tamed sequel
SPIRIT UNTAMED (2021)
DreamWorks’ Spirit Untamed is a tamed sequel to the well regarded ‘04 original. Spirit Untamed’s story is less about the titular Spirit's story and instead about Lucky Prescott, a little girl fighting for the justice of the wild horses against a criminal group on the run.
Directed by Elaine Bogan, the animation is incredibly one note and dull to the eye. Nothing comes close to striking that special way like in the classic DreamWorks animation days. While the animation is an easy scapegoat as to why the film is instantly lacking, it’s more so the storytelling and erratic pacing that drives this film from a forgettable feature to a frustrating entry in DreamWorks’ long history.
The film follows Lucky Prescott as she travels for the summer to visit her father she hasn't seen in ten years and discovers her late mother's true passion with the assistance of the wild Spirit. You can guess every step Lucky and Spirit will take and the threats they will encounter. When the film chooses to make it so that all the wild horses of the movie befriend you due to an endless supply of apples, you can tell this film struggled in its screenplay; it delivers a hollow shelled animated feature that could have been a rough draft. Spirit Untamed seems to be on a race to the finish with tired DreamWorks tropes that reflect less of a theatrical production and more a straight to video affair. Children that are fans of the Netflix series may be excited by Spirit Untamed, but not so much for an adult that barely remembers the original.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
It's not that the acting is particularly bad, it's that the small cast we are given should have delivered a much more entertaining feature. An animated film with the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Julianne Moore, Walton Goggins, and the striking newcomer Isabela Merced should have been something to keep an eye on and something to see for the talent alone, but everyone's performance is deafeningly mild mannered. Gyllenhaal is one the greatest actors of our time, but even when lending his vocal talent couldn't elevate the film an inch. The dialogue is choppily handled and lacks any charisma, especially from the child characters. The development of the relationship between Spirit and Lucky appears only partial, and so their bond is meant to be so much greater than what the audience perceives.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
I’ve already stated that the animation style is seriously lacking in comparison to the awe that the original DreamWorks creations produced. Back in 2001 there was nothing better than seeing Shrek for the first time and being blown away by the CGI animation. While that animation doesn’t hold up, at least it has some originality behind it unlike anything in Spirit Untamed.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Magnifying the film's mediocrity is the choice to use a song like “Better with You” during a montage sequence showing Spirit warming up to Lucky with the help of apples. Spirit Untamed has a few familiar sounding songs tucked within and “You Belong” sung by Becky G. also fits that bill. It’s also worth noting that one of the characters is a singer and a terrible one at that, which is the joke of the film, but she sings a lot within the 90 minute runtime which makes it less of a quick joke and more of a long term annoyance.
DreamWorks’ Spirit Untamed is as cookie cutter as it gets. It’s a dull story with no originality behind it, and in terms of sequels is one of the most undeserving theatrical releases in some time - it even struggles to meet expectations of a straight to video release.
SPIRIT UNTAMED – in theaters June 4