A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is a 2002 movie about a wild mustang stallion that cannot be tamed in the "Wild West." The scenes of Spirit being taken away from his family, and subsequent scenes of Spirit's cruel treatment while men try to "break" him, may be too intense at times for younger or more sensitive viewers. The soldiers use guns and treat Spirit harshly, applying whips and spurs. The blacksmith makes an unsuccessful attempt to brand him. While trying to break Spirit, after all else fails, Spirit is left tied to a post for three days in the hot sun with no food and water. Frequent peril includes a near-drowning scene in which horses are trapped in raging rapids. Characters are in peril and it appears that one has been killed. There's a fire and a chase scene. The Native American boy is portrayed as brave, compassionate, and honorable.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In this animated horse tale, Spirit is born to a loving mare and grows up in a paradise of mountains and plains, with plenty to eat and drink and freedom to run as far as he can dream. He becomes the leader of the pack of horses, and watches out for his group to keep them safe from predators. His curiosity leads him to investigate a campsite, and he's captured by cavalry soldiers. A brutal commander tries to break him, but even starvation doesn't make him submit. Spirit escapes with an Indian boy named Little Creek, and they grow to care for each other. Spirit also cares for Little Creek's pretty palomino, Rain. But Spirit still will not let anyone ride him. Little Creek sends Spirit back to his home, but he's captured again and has many more adventures before returning to his family.
Is it any good?
Many kids will enjoy this traditionally animated story about a brave wild mustang in the 19th-century American West, but parents may find it overlong even at a running time of less than 90 minutes. Parents should also know that there are some scary scenes and that the story may be hard for younger children to follow because the horse characters don't talk.
There are some lovely and powerful images of horses racing through endless stretches of grass, mountains, and rivers. The scary scenes are very vivid, especially the fire and a railroad engine knocked off its tracks that comes tumbling downhill. But the story moves slowly, especially during the dreary Bryan Adams songs. The narration (by Matt Damon) is more poetic than descriptive, so younger kids will benefit from some discussion about the story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the different ways that the Colonel and Little Creek have of trying to teach Spirit to carry a rider. Do different parents have different ways of teaching children? What ways work best?
How are Native Americans and the U.S. Cavalry portrayed in this movie? How is this in contrast to the way Native Americans and the U.S. Cavalry have historically been portrayed in Western movies?
Was the violence necessary for telling the story, or was it too much? Why?
- In theaters: May 24, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: November 19, 2002
- Cast: Chopper Bernet, James Cromwell, Matt Damon
- Directors: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook
- Studio: DreamWorks
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Horses and Farm Animals
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- MPAA explanation: scenes of peril, scary fire
- Last updated: February 25, 2020
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