Disney's dalliance with the IMAX format continues with The Young Black Stallion, a visually striking but dramatically inert adventure that could almost be dubbed Hidalgo For Kids. Basically a prequel to 1979 children's favourite The Black Stallion, Simon Wincer's short is merely an excuse to include as many dramatic desert landscapes and pulse-quickening pursuits as can plausibly be crammed in a 50-minute featurette. Alas, the limitations of both material and medium are cruelly exposed by a plot so slender it borders on skeletal.
Set in North Africa at the end of WWII, Stallion's two-legged heroine is Neera (Biana Tamimi), a young Arabian girl who is separated from her kindly grandfather (Richard Romanus) when their convoy is attacked by marauders. Alone in the dunes, she meets a jet-black colt that leads her to safety before vanishing back into the wilderness. One year later the nag returns, enabling Neera to take on some rival tribes in the traditional annual horse race.
"THIS IS A TERRIBLY TEDIOUS AFFAIR"
Boasting awesome aerial shots of the striking Namibian and South African locations, the action-packed finale is the highpoint of the picture and the only time this slim tale justifies its epic presentation. For the most part, though, this is a terribly tedious affair whose lack of notable incident is only magnified by the massive IMAX screen. It also features some awful post-sync dubbing that is made all the worse by the incongruous American accents emerging from these supposedly Moroccan mouths.
Australian director Wincer, no stranger to the saddle after his work on Phar Lap and the Lonesome Dove miniseries, does capture the sleek elegance and noble bearing of his equine star. However, after the umpteenth time we've watched it gallop across the sandy vista, you can't help thinking this is little more than a Lloyds Bank commercial with delusions of grandeur.