It’s Called Formulaic For A Reason: Our Review of ‘Spirit: Untamed’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 03, 2021
It’s Called Formulaic For A Reason: Our Review of ‘Spirit: Untamed’

You know it really speaks to the staying power of a franchise…when this critic didn’t even know it was still going on?

All jokes aside though, Spirit: Untamed is a very solid family friendly adventure and while it won’t necessarily light the world on fire, you’ll be undoubtedly entertained.

Lucky Prescott (Isabela Merced), never really knew her late mother, Milagro Navarro (Eiza González) a fearless horse-riding stunt performer from Miradero, a small town on the edge of the wide-open frontier. Like her mother, Lucky isn’t exactly a fan of rules and restrictions, which has caused her Aunt Cora (Julianne Moore) no small amount of worry. Lucky has grown up in an East Coast city under Cora’s watchful eye, but when Lucky presses her own luck with one too many risky escapades, Cora picks up stakes and moves them both back with Lucky’s father, Jim (Jake Gyllenhaal), in Miradero. Lucky is decidedly unimpressed with the sleepy little town. She has a change of heart when she meets Spirit, a wild Mustang who shares her independent streak, and befriends two local horseback riders, Abigail Stone (Mckenna Grace) and Pru Granger (Marsai Martin). Pru’s father, stable owner Al Granger (Andre Braugher), is the best friend of Lucky’s father. When a heartless horse wrangler (Walton Goggins) and his team plan to capture Spirit and his herd and auction them off to a life of captivity and hard labor, Lucky enlists her new friends and bravely embarks on the adventure of a lifetime to rescue the horse who has given her freedom and a sense of purpose, and has helped Lucky discover a connection to her mother’s legacy and to her Mexican heritage that she never expected.

If you’re coming to this space, expecting something like Spirit: Untamed to be reinventing the cinematic wheel in the family friendly animation space then I’m sorry to tell you that you’re probably in the wrong place…

But with that being said, Spirit: Untamed was entertaining, with an easily accessible story for all ages with some top notch animation and entertaining sequences.

The directing team of Elaine Bogan and Ennio Torresan jump to feature duties here with relative ease and skill as it all looks pretty good from top to bottom with some genuine flow and real pace to it.  They weren’t tasked to do anything that hasn’t been done before in the animation game and have made something that plays unspectacularly but certainly more than anything that’s just “good enough”.  From a visual standpoint it does what it has to do to keep every age group engaged and never bored with the on screen proceedings; parents and caregivers won’t have to bring an audio book to this one.

Actually…maybe we take that back.

As good as it looks, the script is about as cookie cutter as it gets.

Young girl, tragic family past, returns to old home town, falls in love with a wild animal, goes on an adventure, rinse and repeat.  While well executed from the directorial team the writing team of John Fusco, Kirstin Hahn and Katherine Nolfi follow the “formula” for an animated movie that is geared towards young girls without colouring outside of the lines one iota.  That’s not a bad thing…but if you’re over 12 years old you’ll see every single story beat in this film coming from a mile away.

You’ll recognize some familiar voices like Jake Gylennhaal, Isabela Merced, McKenna Grace, Julianne Moore, Walton Goggins and Andre Braugher but they all blend into the narrative shockingly well and don’t come across as any kind of forced stunt casting.  That’s a credit to not only the actor’s but the directing team as well on a film like this.

Obviously a film like Spirit: Untamed is going to have a very specific demographic and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but just remember that if you are the parent or caregiver taking someone to see this film…don’t worry you could have done a hell of a lot worse.


This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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