I’m tired of horse movies. Which makes sense, because I’m not 8.
But my younger daughter is 8.
We are excepting The Black Stallion. That’s a real movie.
The majority of horse movies available to stream follow the standard “Horse Reform” formula:
- Troubled/spoiled girl conveniently moves to a relative’s home.
- A male relative/father figure, with a hidden, rodeo star past, will be preferably played by a country singer or actor who also portrayed a 1980s or 90s TV superhero.
- In a thrilling montage, a wild horse will be tamed by the girl.
- To add realism to ranch life, financial problems will stand-in for more visual ranch-life problems troublesome to young viewers, like bestiality.
- In a typically evil trick, religion will occur.
- An injury will occur; to horse, or teenage girl, or both.
- An un-medicated parent, watching the film with his daughter, will hate himself for fighting tears.
These are all ranked last:
Black Beauty (1946 or 1994, take your pick)
This doesn’t fit the Horse Reform formula, but when horse movies piss me off so much I can’t sleep, I throw on a Black Beauty movie and enjoy some decent beatings delivered to a sad horse for 50 minutes. And if you like making kids cry, this is a good pick.
Jailbait does community service on ranch and bonds with horse. It all starts here for Horse Reform, maybe, this total shit flush of a film drowning none other than Ed Begley Jr, Mimi Rogers, Natasha Gregson Wagner, and… Tab Hunter, who also produces. This is almost redeemable for the simple fact that it’s the first movie Hunter produced in 7 years following the wonderfully execrable Lust in the Dust.
Horse Reform dead-on. Ranch owner Kevin Sorbo (Hercules!) hosts his spoiled niece when her rich father goes to jail for financial improprieties of the non-violent kind. Happily, there’s no religious message, and Sorbo is the prefect curmudgeon. I can’t remember if there was a storm, or a horse named Storm, because all the movies have blended together.
At least someone ponied up the cash to convince Frankie Faison and James Cromwell to step into this turd. Cromwell, who’d rather be slaughtering pigs, plays the former rodeo-star father figure while troublesome lil’ Ida seeks out her long-lost baby daddy by using her suddenly amazing trick riding skills to scour the rodeo circuit for her sperm donor. Luckily, and impossibly, she knew him all along; her mother just kept him secret and, because he was an actor, he looked nothing like her.
Cowgirls N’ Angels 2: Dakota’s Summer
Lil Montana – sorry, Dakota .. does it matter? realizes she’s adopted and spends the summer going all-Afterschool Special angry on her sweet grandparents who love her anyway. They run a ranch regularly visited by a bused-in group of Tough Kids With Real Problems Only Horse Petting Can Solve. They didn’t seem that troubled – not a single one appears drunk, or smokes crack. Keith Carradine receives enough vitamin B injections to stumble through this one, and my kid recognized the little girl who went on to portray McKenna in the titular American Girl movie. Don’t get me started on that shitspank of a series.
Because Hercules can never die, Sorbo returns as a curmudgeonly dad or uncle hosting a spoiled girl who horses her way to happiness. I don’t remember much else because I took a nap. My kid liked this one, but she also picks her nose.
If a young Roddy McDowell couldn’t save the 1943 My Friend Flicka, the usually exceptional Maria Bello can’t save this one, although she does a decent job trying. She’s paired with country singer Tim McGraw, whose portrayal as a horse rancher is well-cast given his hardscrabble life as Mr. Faith Hill and the son of major league pitcher Tug McGraw. Un-tameable wild horse Flicka shows teenager Katy how they can save the family ranch. Horse sense. 20 minutes in, I wanted to die.
Patrick Warburton (The Tick!) and c&w singer Clint Black both star in this rancid skin tag of a film, but at least there’s a scene where they get it on behind the barn … nah, we’re not that lucky. City teen moves in with her dad and bonds with a horse. You know the rest.
Clint Black reprise-slums his role from Flicka 2, this time trying to get in Lisa Hartman’s pants by bribing Hartman’s young teenage daughter (played by an obviously and truly 21-year-old actress) with a gift horse while he pretends to help them out financially. One script turn where Hartman meets a sexy drifter and it could’ve been a decent James M. Cain novel.
Dean Cain (Superman!), no relation to James M, plays father to a girl whose riding talent remains unrealized until she attends a camp for girls, not horses, as the title had misled me to believe, wondering as I was how horses would sleep in cabins or make s’mores with their hooves. This one almost transcends the Horse Reform formula, trying for a Clueless meets Flicka, but there’s God-song singing and painfully general bullshit like a girl simply removing her glasses which surprises everyone into going ‘ohmygod you’re beautiful!”
Cain turns up again as the same dad or maybe a different dad, this time taking in a niece (named … Summer! A fucking horse for Summer! Get it?) who’s so tough she doesn’t respond to Cain’s lectures, lectures being the one thing most teenagers love. Of note: Christopher Atkins plays a pastor, meaning he won’t get nude. His “church” is one of those supercool joints with a black-backdrop-ed stage and a drum kit. About midway, when the teenage boy love interest began to sing a booty-call anthem to God, I strode over and unplugged the Roku. True story: My kid thanked me, and went and read a book.