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1 item from 2000

Film review: 'Running Free' Kid Fantasy 'Running' Lacks Horsepower / Namibia setting is lovely, but film makes poor artistic choices

30 May 2000 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

As if the constant whinnies, neighs and snorts of the four-legged lead characters -- providing some clues to their thoughts and behavior -- weren't enough, Columbia's kiddie horse fantasy "Running Free" is reined in by an oppressive first-animal narration (read by Lukas Haas) that will irk, if not uproot, most adult viewers.

Jean-Jacques Annaud, producer and co-author of the film's original story, was surely after another unique film experience and worldwide boxoffice hit like "The Bear", but "Running" comes off as seriously botched, and it certainly won't start any stampedes among domestic ticket buyers. If for nothing else, the film based on historical events is endurable for the fantastic locations in Namibia.

Horse lovers also have many things to feast their eyes on in director Sergei Bodrov's World War I adventure set in southwest Africa, where a pregnant grey mare from Germany is shipped to work in a mine. During the long sea voyage, she gives birth to Lucky, a chestnut colt who is separated from his mom when the horses reach their destination.

The horses are dumped in the ocean and forced to swim ashore. Lucky falls behind and is eventually put in a railroad car. Arriving at the mine days later, Lucky is very ill and found by a young boy, Richard (Chase Moore), who is himself an orphan and thrilled to have his own horse to take care of.

Lucky and Richard look out for each other. The former still misses Mom, but he takes coltish interest in friendly young filly Beauty and stays away from her big and mean father, Caesar.

While the early part of the movie is dependent on the quest of son to find mother and vice versa, "Running" insists on making Caesar into a villain who causes the grey mare's death and galvanizes Lucky to seek revenge. After his reunion with the grey mare, Lucky also has to say goodbye to Richard because of the war, with all the humans abandoning the mine and leaving the horses to fend for themselves.

In what appears to be just a season or two after he has survived a lone desert trek to find a hidden lake, the grown Lucky returns to the still-deserted mine to lead his comrades to the Promised Land, while giving Caesar his well-deserved comeuppance. Reunited with Beauty, Lucky and the rest of the herd are happy as baking clams. Years later, the grown-up Richard (Arie Verveen) comes looking for and, remarkably to say the least, finds his old bud Lucky.


Sony Pictures Entertainment

Columbia Pictures presents

a Reperage production

Credits: Director: Sergei Bodrov; Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg; Producer: Jean-Jacques Annaud; Executive producers: Alisa Tager, Lloyd Phillips; Director of photography: Dan Lausten; Production designer: Wolf Kroeger; Editor: Ray Lovejoy; Costume designer: Jo Katsaras-Barklam; Music: Nicola Piovani; Casting: Janet Meintjies. Cast: Young Richard: Chase Moore; Nyka: Maria Geelbooi; Boss Man: Jan Decleir; Adult Richard: Arie Verveen; Boss' Son: Nicholas Trueb. MPAA rating: G. Color/stereo. Running time - 82 minutes.


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