Directed by Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook starring the voices of Matt Damon, James Cromwell and Daniel Studi.
Despite the verbal climbing bars of the title for any kid, DreamWorks' latest is simplicity in itself. But after the nod-to-camera genius of 'Shrek' and the wacky edutainment of 'Jimmy Neutron', 'Spirit' does seem like a worthy, if dull addition to the studio's animated works.
Set in the Old West, the headstrong horse of the title becomes separated from his peers and begins a journey of self-discovery, seeing the impact of progress from the point of view of both native and settler.
With an intro like, "The history of the West was written from the saddle of a horse, but it's never been told from the heart of one", 'Spirit' seeks to offer little more than popcorn-shovelling fun. But while it is technically flawless and has an emotional value that will connect with any viewer, the horse's quest just isn't interesting enough to keep younger eyes fixed on the screen.
Scriptwriter John Fusco had a whole undiscovered world to play with yet somehow managed to come up with a fairly routine story which moves at too slow a pace for the audience it wants to impress. There aren't enough high-tension action sequences - borne out by the fact that one audacious set piece involving a runaway train raises the excitement level of the movie ten times over.
To DreamWorks' credit, they've taken the bold step of keeping the horses quiet (except for Damon voicing the horse's thoughts) and leaving the dialogue to those on two legs. And while the Bryan Adams' lyrics do a good job of providing an emotional backdrop to what's going on, the music is a little too lighters-in-the-air to really win you over. If the arrangements had been worked on with someone like say, Jewel, it could have brought the film to a whole new level.
It's hard to dislike 'Spirt' given the work that's gone into bringing his journey to life. But the animation never finds an equal in the script and you'll come away thinking that the story would have worked far better as a TV series, where Spirit's travels could have been less widescreen but with greater depth.