A wild mustang gets caught by the military and taken to a base, where he is subjected to training methods that may be too traumatic for kids. But Spirit refuses to give up on getting back to his herd, even after being beaten with a whip and saddled with a riding crop. Eventually, he is tied up and his long mane is cut short, his hooves polished and horseshoes put on. He tries to escape and, with the help of a Lakota brave named Little Creek who calls him Spirit Who Could Not Be Broken, makes it back to his village.
Little Creek tries to tame Spirit with kindness, but the horse still refuses to be ridden. Then, he discovers that the railway will pass right through his herd’s home and tries to stop it by faking injury. But the train ends up derailing, leaving Spirit with a broken leg and the herd running free.
The story is a good one, and the animation is beautiful in its style of mixing traditional drawing with 3D computer-generated elements. However, the movie has a tendency to take itself too seriously, which can make it feel overly sombre and slow.
While it doesn’t have the blockbuster hilarity of Shrek or the wildly imaginative flights of Pixar, Spirit is still a solid film with a strong message of respecting Indigenous culture and horses and showing that perseverance pays off. There are also some pretty touching scenes between Spirit and Little Creek that showcase a mutual affection.
It has a few moments of beauty, but this is not a film I would recommend for kids under 9. It’s too much like a Western and doesn’t offer enough of a twist to keep it interesting or fresh.