The Black Stallion Returns ReviewReviewed by Jeffrey Rolo
Is there a horse lover alive that isn't familiar with Walter Farley's ultra-popular Black Stallion series? Probably not. Like many popular novels, it was only a matter of time before part of the series was ported to the big screen for movie audiences around the world. The first attempt was Carroll Ballard's 1979 successful adaptation of the original novel, The Black Stallion, followed four years later by director Robert Dalva's adaptation of the follow up, The Black Stallion Returns.
I'm glad to report that if you're a fan of horses (and you wouldn't be here if you weren't), or of the series itself, then chances are good that The Black Stallion Returns won't disappoint. It's a sweet and warm adventure tale that is suitable for the entire family.
This film sees Alec Ramsey (played by Kelly Reno) enjoying life with his prized stallion Black on the family farm. His serenity soon comes to a shocking end when Black is kidnapped by a small band of Arabians who wish to transport the horse overseas and ride him in a grueling desert race. Without a moment's hesitation, Alec stows away on an airplane bound for Casablanca and sets forth into the Arabian deserts to find his beloved horse.
The adventure proves to be extremely perilous, for Alec must face the trials of nature as well as Kurr (played by Allen Garfield), a dishonorable tribal leader that also has designs on stealing Alec's stallion. Luckily not everyone Alec meets is a foe, for he does strike an odd friendship with a young Arabian prince named Raj (played by Vincent Spano). Together they continue the quest to locate the Black Stallion, all the while protecting each other from dangers foreign and expected.
As happens with nearly all film adaptations of popular novels, The Black Stallion Returns does differ here and there from the original source material. Such differences shouldn't be enough to detract from fans of the novel, but they will be noticeable nonetheless.
The acting in The Black Stallion Returns is a bit of a mixed bag. Kelly Reno does appear to share a bond with his horse, so he represents Alec well in that regard. But he doesn't have the acting chops to convincingly handle emotional scenes that don't involve directly showing his affection for his loyal steed.
On the other hand Vincent Spano was fantastic as the Arabian prince Raj, and Ferdy Mayne (who played Black's former owner, the proud Arabian Abu Ben Ishak) was extremely pleasing to watch. Overall the acting in this film is solid enough not to detract from the movie, and is on par for what you would expect of family films.
The cinematography was a definite highlight for this film; not only are the deserts brought to life with their sparse beauty, but the true majesty of the Black Stallion (and all the many other Arabian horses that make appearances in the film) is captured almost flawlessly. Horse lovers will likely swoon when they view Black proudly rear and race about the pastures and desert sands.
The Black Stallion Returns is one work within the expansive Black Stallion series, but those who haven't watched or read the original Black Stallion novel/film need not worry about being lost if they jump straight to this one. While this is a continuing adventure of Alec and Black, it's also a film that stands alone just fine.
In the end I don't believe this sequel quite reached the same pinnacle as its predecessor, but The Black Stallion Returns is a solid work that should be please just about any horse lover.