Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.

Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris

St. Petersburg Times Online

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Younger kids saddle up for 'Spirit'

The young Lakota brave Little Creek and the wild mustang Spirit escape from a raging fire in DreamWorks' Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

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Read Billy's movie reviews on his special archive page.
By BILLY NORRIS, Xpress movie critic

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 3, 2002

Movie: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Rating: G

Summary: The story of Spirit, a stallion who is leader of his herd, is set in the 1800s in the West's panoramic frontier. One night, when Spirit sees a strange light (a campfire) on a distant mountain, he decides to investigate. When he arrives, he finds a horde of strange creatures (humans). He arouses them from their sleep, and they begin to pursue him. When he is captured, he is taken to an Army fort, where they attempt to break his wild spirit and turn him into a trained riding horse. He pals up with a fellow prisoner, an Indian named Little Creek, and together they escape the confines of this camp. Spirit continues to endure many obstacles on the long road back to his homeland.

My view: For a movie definitely targeted at young kids, this one actually wasn't half bad. The story was told from the horse's point of view, which made it different. The horses didn't talk, communicating only with their expressions and neighing, while Spirit's thoughts were voiced by Matt Damon. I think if they had conversed in human words, it would have made the film totally ridiculous. It was fairly short, 82 minutes, which is good when your audience is primarily kids 10 and under. Nothing really jumps out at me and makes me say, "Oh, what an awesome movie," but nothing makes me cringe in pain, either (which is what I was originally expecting). Overall, this movie is pretty benign.

Favorite part: I liked the new technique of incorporating drawn animation with computer-generated animation. It blended well and gave the characters and backgrounds much more texture and depth. It gave me a real feel for the Wild West setting of this movie. The motion was very fluid and nice to watch.

Least favorite part: I thought the musical score was somewhat out of place here. It was composed by Bryan Adams in a driving rock 'n' roll style that just doesn't fit in a movie like this. I would expect to hear more of a "train-heading-west" score, similar to that of Wild Wild West. Maybe they were trying to appeal to an older audience with this kind of music, but it didn't work for me.

Recommendations: This is definitely a good movie for kids. The short length will keep them from getting too antsy, and they will be kept content by the on-screen happenings. I recommend this one to kids 10 and under, but I also think it will be well-tolerated by older siblings and adults who accompany them.

Grade: B-

Billy Norris, 14, is in the eighth grade at Seminole Middle School, and is a former member of the Times X-Team.

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