Running Free

MPAA Rating: G

Entertainment: +3

Content: +2

Set in the South African country of Namibia, RUNNING FREE is based on a wild herd of horses found in the African desert about 75 years ago. They were work horses shipped from Germany into Africa in 1914 to work the mines. The movie is narrated (Lukas Haas) from the horse's point of view. It begins with a foal born on the ship and soon separated from his mother. After a tortuous train ride across the desert, the foal is rescued by Richard (Chase Moore), a young stable boy, who names the colt Lucky. Richard and Lucky are inseparable, and two hearts are broken when the mine boss (Jan Decleir) orders evacuation of the mine as World War I begins. A thoroughbred stallion charges Lucky, forcing the young stallion to run into the desert. Once again, Lucky's life is saved by a child. A young native girl (Maria Geelbooi) befriends him and teaches the horse to find water and food in the desert. Lucky returns to the mines to lead the other abandoned horses to his watering hole. RUNNING FREE has some dark moments too intense for ages under six, but overall, it's one of this year's best family feature films. Panoramic desert scenes and unusual native animals also make it a visual treat.

This could have been a brutal film, considering the extreme hardship the animals endure in the voyage by ship and rail. Even when the mine boss punishes Richard for using valuable liniment on Lucky's snakebite, the beating is only implied as the man removes his belt. A coiled desert snake about to strike is all that is seen when Lucky is bitten, but young children at the screening were upset when Lucky's mother dies. In that scene, the narrator speaking for Lucky says, "I prayed she would live." (Lucky is portrayed as almost human.) Richard shows his bravery as he runs into a burning stable and releases the horses trapped inside. The boss, though stern, shows understanding when Richard brings Lucky into the stable to nurse him back to health. When the mine must be evacuated the mine boss understands that he must sacrifice his prize stallion to save his workers. Not one foul word is spoken, mumbled or hinted. There is some brief native rear male nudity in one scene, and the adolescent native girl's breast is exposed once very briefly. RUNNING FREEs story of bravery, survival and sacrifice will be long remembered by all who see it.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
Columbia Pictures, 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: None

Profanity: None

Violence: Few times Mild and moderate (horses corralled with whips; horses crowded into hold of ship and boxcar without adequate food and water; snake bites horse off-camera; stallion charges other horse; two stallions fight; mine bombed, fire traps horses; lion chases horse)

Sex: None

Nudity: Twice (young natives rear male nudity, adolescent native girls breast exposed briefly)

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: Boy saves horses; children show compassion for animals; horse says he prayed; miraculous survival of abandoned animals

Running Time: 82 minutes
Intended Audience: Ages 6 and older

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