Wednesday 22 May 2024

Prime Time: Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron (2002)

It’s easy to forget now, but there was a time when Dreamworks didn’t really have any main identity at the heart of their animation department. They have now, and they have had great success, but there were a few years when they tried, and I would say failed, to impress audiences with classic adventures, biblical epics, and this . . . a tale of the old West as shown through the eyes of a strong stallion. And it should be said that I class these films as failures because of how they can be perceived in relation to other films from Dreamworks, not in relation to how I myself view them.

Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron isn’t great though. I have no idea how it was turned into a videogame and a number of small-screen spin-offs, considering how surprisingly dull it is, but those wanting more family viewing options featuring this character . . . knock yourselves out.

Matt Damon voices the titular character, a brave and noble stallion who enjoys the US countryside and looking after his friends and family. That is all out at risk when man barges through though, looking to train and tame horses, and looking to put railway tracks down throughout the fields and forests. Headed up by a stubborn and mean Colonel (James Cromwell), the men may spell the end of the blissful life for Spirit and co. 

Co-directed by Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook, this is a film that had me wary from the very opening scenes. Viewers follow an eagle as it flies over some picturesque scenery, in a scene that feels very much like people showing off how nice they can make their animation. It isn’t the only moment like that, although some other sequences marry the visuals to some enjoyable action and drama, and it ultimately highlights the weakness of the film. This is much prettier than it is interesting.

The script from John Fusco doesn’t help. He has written some fun stuff in the past (a certain Brat Pack Western being one of his best), but he focuses here on a central character, and central message, that ensures the focus remains on the serious messaging of the piece. From the very first lines of dialogue, which are awful, you just know that you are stuck with something that is weighed down by an overload of earnestness.

Damon is fine as the lead character, Cromwell is a good villain, and the other main cast member is Daniel Studi, who does well, but they also have to share some time with songs delivered by Bryan Adams, who seems to have watched the film and then handed over tunes that literally describe what is happening onscreen. Nobody is at their worst, I guess, but they are certainly not at their best either.

It generally stays pleasant to look at, there’s an exciting sequence in the third act with a large steam train, and it certainly didn’t pain me to watch it. I will probably forget it within a few weeks though, and I know I will never deliberately pick it for a repeat viewing. There’s not enough to appreciate or dig into beyond a one-time visit.


If you have enjoyed this, or any other, review on the blog then do consider the following ways to show your appreciation. A subscription/follow costs nothing.
It also costs nothing to like/subscribe to the YouTube channel attached to the podcast I am part of -
Or you may have a couple of quid to throw at me, in Ko-fi form -
Or Amazon is nice at this time of year -


  1. Typically I think horse movies are more aimed at young girls. I'm not sure this would even work on that level.

    1. I somehow always associate horses with cowboys and old stunts that would appeal to young boys, but you're probably right, in general. This feels like it wouldn't keep anyone really happy though.