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'The Young Black Stallion'

'Black Stallion' is more spectacle than story

Friday, December 26, 2003

BY RON WEISKIND, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE

After 35 years and countless short films, the IMAX large-screen format hardly qualifies anymore as a gimmick. But the notion of using the technology for mainstream fiction movies remains relatively new. The latest such feature, "The Young Black Stallion," demonstrates both the attributes and drawbacks of the genre.

 
 
'THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION'

Rating: G.

Players: Richard Romanus, Biana G. Tamimi, Patrick Elyas.

Director: Simon Wincer.

   
 

The movie, opening today at the Carnegie Science Center's Rangos Omnimax Theater, is a prequel to the 1979 classic "The Black Stallion" and its 1983 followup, "The Black Stallion Returns."

The horse, born wild in the North African desert at the end of World War II, helps a girl, Neera (Biana Tamimi), find her way home after being separated from her family. Her grandfather (Richard Romanus) had once raised horses but has only one animal left. Neera finds the stallion again and decides to enter him in an annual race.

It's a thin story, written by Jeanne Rosenberg from the novel by Walter and Steven Farley, and innocuous enough. But the story is not the thing in IMAX. You have this gigantic curved screen to fill, and so director Simon Wincer and (more important in this case) veteran IMAX cinematographer Reed Smoot fill it.

They offer shots of the beautiful desolation of the desert (the movie was shot in Namibia), the rise and fall of the sun, the horse galloping across the sands as the music swells to signify nothing much more than the process making a spectacle of itself.

At 45 minutes in length, "The Young Black Stallion" hardly has time to establish much in the way of character, but people tend to get lost in the vastness of the IMAX screen unless they are as swaggering as horsemen Rhamon (Gerard Rudolf) and Mansoor (Ali Al Ameri).

It's pretty to look at and it doesn't last long enough to tax the patience of either child or adult. But "The Young Black Stallion" is not the movie destined to showcase the dramatic possibilities of the IMAX format.

Post-Gazette movie editor Ron Weiskind can be reached at rweiskind@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.

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