Spirit: Untamed

Posted on June 3, 2021 at 5:04 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some adventure action
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Action-style peril, sad offscreen death of parent
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: June 4, 2021

Copyright DreamWorks 2021
If there’s an aspiring grad student looking for a sociology paper topic, a compare and contrast approach to the original “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,” released in 2002, and 2021’s “Spirit Untamed,” with references to the “Spirit Riding Free” series on Netflix. The original film was hand-drawn and the new version, like the series, is computer-animated. But the gap between the two feature films allows for distinctive evidence of changes in culture as well as technology.

The original film centered on the title character a wild horse captured by cowboys but searching for freedom. He was voiced by Matt Damon. This film, like the Netflix series, is more of a spin-off than a sequel, with another wild horse named Spirit, but the only talking characters are the humans.

In the mid-1800s, a little girl named Lucky (Fortuna to her Spanish-speaking mother, Milagro Navarro, lovingly voiced by Eiza González) is sent to live in the big city with her stern grandfather, a politician who insists that family comes first. Her mother has been killed in an accident performing on horseback, and her grief-stricken father is not able to care for her.

Ten years later, the animal-loving Lucky (voiced by Isabela Merced) manages to disrupt her grandfather’s important political appearance, and so she and her Aunt Cora (Julianne Moore) are packed off to the west, where Lucky’s father Jim (Jake Gyllenhaal) is helping to get the railroad built. Lucky and her father have not seen each other in a decade, but they awkwardly begin to get to know one another until he discovers she has been riding, and forbids her to go anywhere near a horse. The memories of the loss of Lucky’s mother are still too painful.

But Lucky has found Spirit, like the one in the original film a wild horse captured by cowboys and scheduled to be “broken.” Lucky patiently allows Spirit to feel comfortable with her. And nothing Jim says can keep her away from Spirit. She feels they understand each other.

When Lucky learns that Spirit’s family (his herd) is about to be captured and sold by wicked outlaws, she decides to rescue them, with the help of her new friends Pru (Marsai Martin of “Black-ish”) and Abigail (McKenna Grace). To get there in time will require riding their horses over a treacherous trail. But “Prescotts never give up” and Lucky is brave.

This is the best part of the film, as the girls navigate all kinds of danger with courage, loyalty, and good humor. “I rode a horse!” Lucky crows. “Around here we call that holding on for dear life,” one of her friends responds dryly. Co-writer/co-director Elaine Bogan has a perceptive understanding of the vital importance of the P-A-L (the girls’ initials) friendship. While parents will want to remind their children that no one should leave home without letting family know where they’re going and “never give up” does not mean taking unreasonable risks, this is a heartwarming story of human and equine courage and loyalty and a tribute to the wild spirit in both species that seeks adventure and rights wrongs.

Parents should know that this movie includes peril, cruel treatment of animals, very risky behavior by young girls, and the off-screen said death of a parent.

Family discussion: When is it brave to be careful? What adventures do you have with your friends?

If you like this, try: The earlier Spirit film and the Netflix series, and live action films like “The Black Stallion” and “National Velvet”

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Interview: Mckenna Grace of “Gifted”

Posted on April 12, 2017 at 10:49 am

Mckenna Grace as “Mary Adler” and Chris Evans as “Frank Adler” in the film GIFTED. Photo by Wilson Webb. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved.
Mckenna Grace as “Mary Adler” and Chris Evans as “Frank Adler” in the film GIFTED. Photo by Wilson Webb. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved.

Mckenna Grace is the star of “Gifted,” playing Mary, a first grader with extraordinary mathematics ability, living with her Uncle Frank, played by Chris Evans. In an interview, she talked about what she and Evans did off camera, crying on cue, and what might be difficult for someone who is gifted.

What did you and Chris Evans do to get to be comfortable with each other?

We had an immediate connection. It was very special when I first met him. We were there ahead of time for two weeks to kind of get to know each other better and then we were there for two months so some of the scenes were really just better with our connection because we had been knowing each other for longer.

What kinds of things did you do when you were not filming?

We sang, we sang. “Peaches” by Presidents of the United States of America and then we also sang “Old Man on the Back Porch” by Presidents of the United States of America.

Would you like to be as smart as Mary?

I think it would be cool but from watching “Gifted” I learned that some people don’t always feel accepted or they feel different or alone when they are gifted or they just feel they have an irregular life. So, I think that being gifted would be cool but sometimes people can make fun of you and I think that that’s wrong.

Are you good at math?

I do six grade math even though I’m in fifth grade so I think I’m okay.

Did you have fun with Octavia Spencer, the way your character does with her character?

Yes, we still talk a lot. And she would always invite me to her hotel, we have parties and we talk and sing and eat. We hung out a lot and we still talk a lot.

What was your audition like for this role?

I was auditioning and connected to this for over 8 months. I did the Blacklist live reading so if they made a movie I thought I would get to play Mary but nope, I had to do a whole auditioning process to get it right.

What are some of the tricks that you use to be able to cry and to be angry in a scene?

I just think about sad things and I really put myself in Mary’s shoes, Mary’s position.

So, what was she feeling when it seemed like she was going to be living with Frank anymore?

She was feeling very upset and she felt very worked up and sad and she felt very abandoned. We did tons of takes, tons.

Do you like to read? Are there any books that you especially like?

Yes, I love reading. I’m on my tenth novel this month. I love the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series. I also really love Stephen King’s, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, that one was amazing!

Was there a movie or television show that you saw where you said, “That’s what I really want to do. I really want to act?”

Yes, The Pee-wee Herman Show and Shirley Temple movies. I really love “Little Miss Broadway.”

And what is the best advice that you ever got about acting?

That you can do anything you put your mind to and do your best and if you do your best then you know you have done all that you could do.

What makes you laugh?

Oh goodness, lots of things made me laugh. My papa because sometimes he is very overdramatic on purpose to get laughs out of me. He makes me giggle a lot.

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