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From Shrek to the horse's...

2002-05-17 16:30

France - Forget Mr Ed, think Spirit - fresh from its worldwide triumph with the riotous Shrek, Hollywood's DreamWorks studio is taking the film festival route again to launch in Cannes another animated saga - Spirit - about a horse "whose spirit will not be broken".

But there will be no equine chatter from Spirit along the lines of Eddie Murphy's quick-fire stream of consciousness as the donkey in Shrek.

When you want to know what the galloping hero is thinking, you will have to rely on voiceover musings from Matt Damon and the soaring songs of Canadian rocker Bryan Adams.

Adams is to launch the movie in style on Saturday at the world's most famous film festival. The gravelly-voiced rocker steps up live on stage to sing along with the soundtrack.

So don't expect Spirit to tell you all about his life in the Old West where he chases a soaring eagle, gets captured by the US army, flees with an Indian named Little Creek and falls in love with a pretty Pinto called Rain.

"I have two words and four letters for you that tell you everything you need to know about why we decided not to have the horse talk - Mr Ed," said DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg, producer of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

"It doesn't matter where you come from in the world, what language you speak. We all know Mr Ed [the cult Sixties situation comedy in the United States about a talking horse] and the problem is that as soon as the horse starts talking, it is a comedy."

Premiere screening

Katzenberg was fiercely proud last year when Shrek became the first animated film in 50 years to be selected for official competition in Cannes, famed as an invaluable platform for art-house movies.

"It was a true badge of honour and distinction for the film and was very valuable for it," Katzenberg told the trade magazine Screen International.

When the Cannes top brass asked what they were up to this year, DreamWorks offered up a premiere screening of Spirit.

"I asked them what they would think about playing the score live to the film but also having the eight songs performed live alongside," Katzenberg said. "That was very exciting for them."

But, as the influential Hollywood daily Variety warned, the film's marketers could face a tough call attracting a sizeable box office for the film beyond the obvious target audience of pre-teen girls.

Reviewing the film, which is set to launch in the United States on May 24, the paper said: "There's nothing thrilling or new about the work here - but accomplished it is."

And no one could accuse the film of failing on the political correctness score.

"The story of the Old West from a horse's point of view sports a noble 'my spirit will never be broken' theme as well as a fashionably pc pro-horse-and-Indian, anti-white settler political bent, backed up by a host of soaring Bryan Adams vocals," it concluded.