The Black Stallion (1979)
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The 2001: A Space Odyssey of horse movies.
A little boy and a horse are stranded on a desert island in The Black Stallion, and that first hour is just beautiful. Director Carroll Ballard, possibly filtered through his experience in nature documentaries, just lets the story unfold with almost no words. Percussive and sweeping music, well-shot environments, and the developing relationship between the boy and the stallion. It's touching and it's great. And then they get rescued and sent back to late '40s America. Now, what I'm gonna say will be as true of the book as the film, but I find very little joy in the second half of the story. First, while I could tap into the adventure on the deserted island, the pair in the civilized world makes it harder to forgive the children book logic of some of the scenes. The under-utilized Terry Garr, for example, is a mom who has her son disappear for more than a day and night without a reaction. But what really bugs me is that the story doesn't know what to do with them except the obvious and boring: Turning the kid into a jockey, and the stallion into a race horse. It's a last minute sports movie and I felt sad that the stallion's need to run didn't feel like a moment of freedom, but one of servility.
Another two boring hours...
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In 6 official lists
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This movie ranks #46 in Pixar Directors Recommend: Films for Kids Under 13
This movie ranks #64 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers
This movie ranks #366 in Library of Congress's National Film Registry
This movie ranks #826 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #906 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #980 in Box Office Mojo's All Time Adjusted Box Office