NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, June 4th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a trip to the movies.
If you’re like most of us, you haven’t been to a theater in over a year. And if you’re ready to get back in the saddle, reviewer Sharon Dierberger has a recommendation.
SHARON DIERBERGER, REVIEWER: It’s a rare girl who hasn’t dreamed of having her own horse and galloping off on far-flung adventures. Spirit Untamed will transport those girls—and their parents—to a fun frontier where the bad guys are bad, but not creepy, and the good guys … are gals.
LUCKY’S MOM: Be fearless, Fortuna. MUSIC LYRICS: Be strong. Be brave. Let courage lead the way. Stand tall and know who you are…
The PG film from DreamWorks Animation opens in theaters today. It hits the sweet spot of girl-loves-horse combined with genuine friendships and loving family members who aren’t perfect. And it projects those upbeat, overt messages about being fearless and never giving up. It even shows that doing your homework pays off.
AUNT CORA: I know living with Grandpa isn’t easy, but part of being a Prescott is not alway having what you want, but doing what’s best for the family. Now come down from there and finish your math.
The film opens as 12 year-old Lucky Prescott is headed from the big city to the Western frontier. She’s traveling with her Aunt Cora to spend the summer with her father. When she was just a baby, he sent her to live with relatives after her mom died while performing acrobatics as a rodeo stunt rider.
AUNT CORA: It wasn’t easy for him after your mom died. Something broke in him and he— LUCKY: Why didn’t he come with me? AUNT CORA:Sweetheart, he was alone in the wilderness with a baby. He did what he thought—what we all thought—was best.
On the train West Lucky looks out the window and sees a wild mustang running with his herd. She’s instantly enthralled. When she meets him again later, she names him Spirit.
But her dad is afraid of her going anywhere near the wild stallion. He doesn’t want her to get hurt—like her mom did.
You can probably guess what happens next. Lucky can’t resist the horse and cautiously tries to gain his trust. That’s portrayed in comical scenes with a tango-like dance backward and forward between horse and girl.
Abigail and Pru, two young horse-loving gals with spunk and personality themselves, quickly befriend Lucky. They encourage her to ride Spirit. When she finally does—the stallion bolts, with her clinging to his mane.
LUCKY: I just rode a horse! I almost died—but I just rode a horse! PRU: Around here we call that hanging on for dear life. ABIGAIL: Hey, but it’s a start. You’re a natural!
Then come the villainous wranglers. They rustle Spirit’s herd away, driving it across canyons. The three gal pals give chase on horseback. They face daunting, precipitous paths like the Ridge of Regret, but they are determined to get Spirit’s family back.
Their pursuit isn’t all danger, though. As they ride, they sing their hearts out, accompanied by Abigail’s guitar, and tell each other the kind of stories you’d swap at summer camp. One evening finds them devouring marshmallows by the campfire. They quickly devolve into fits of girlish giggles.
LUCKY: And tomorrow, we’re going to take on a bunch of dangerous bandits.” [Giggles] PRU: It’s not funny! [Giggles] LUCKY: I know. [Giggles] LUCKY: Are we insane? [Frog ribbits, giggles]
The idea for this film sprang from the TV series Spirit Riding Free. It followed a 2002 movie called Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. The horse rescue plot in today’s film is similar to its popular predecessor, but this is a much better movie.
The animation has vastly improved, and brings a beautiful cinematic flare to the big screen. The subplots about family and friendship are stronger. And the mix of ethnicities among all the characters seems more natural. It also shows that it’s normal for people of all races to be friends and work together.
ABIGAIL: You know, once I was playing checkers, and I lost all my pieces—all of my pieces—and I still won the game. PRU: Uhhm. I think what Abigail is trying to say is, the Lucky we know would never let anything stop her. Until Spirit gets on that boat, we still have a chance. ABIGAIL: We’ll never know if we don’t try. We are the pals, aren’t we? PRU: What do you say, Prescott?
The film’s blend of reality and completely crazy impossibility will keep kids engaged and enjoying the ride. And parents will appreciate the blatant but winsome positive messages, even in the catchy songs.
There is one problem though: The kids may start begging for a pony again.
I’m Sharon Dierberger.
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