Touching Wild Horses

“Touching Wild Horses” is a bad, wholesome movie about a sullen child who goes to live with his stern aunt when his family is killed in a car accident. She has a million rules, and she doesn’t like children. So what brings them together? Touching the wild horses, obviously.

The film seems to have been made with good intentions, and it’s done well at squeaky-clean festivals like Heartland and the Chicago Children’s Film Festival. But you know what? Take your good intentions and put them in your bum. This is as dull and pointless a film as I’ve seen in ages. I’ll take a good movie made with bad intentions over a bad movie made with good intentions any day.

Written by Murray McRae and directed by Canadian TV director Eleanor Lindo, the film is set on an island off the eastern coast of Canada where only two people dwell: Fiona (Jane Seymour), the aforementioned crusty aunt who likes to be left alone; and Charles (Charles Martin Smith), the government official who monitors the island’s weather station. The two don’t get along, partly because Fiona is such a beeyotch, and partly because Charles doesn’t want ANYONE on the island and possibly messing with the wildlife.

Then along comes 12-year-old Mark (Mark Rendall), grieving over his dead father and sister (his mother remains in a coma) and despondent at having to come live in so remote a place with so bitchy a person. Fiona used to be a schoolteacher, she says, so she’ll be furthering Mark’s education while he’s with her. This includes studying the wild horses that populate the island, and that indeed comprise the only wildlife visible in the film. Just don’t touch the wild horses! she tells him. It’s against the law for humans to have any direct contact with them. If they do, they (the humans) will get kicked off the island, “Survivor”-style.

Oh, and for some reason it’s all set in 1984. Dunno why. It’s not like they’re watching TV or reading magazines on that desolate island. It could just as easily have been set in 1884, or 2084.

Fiona’s the kind of woman who likes to rattle off her rules in numbered lists, couched in crisp tones, and she calls Mark “Boy” most of the time. It’s all a facade, of course, to mask her own personal tragedies from long ago. This, to go along with Mark’s current tragedy, plus the additional tragedy of having come from an abusive, alcoholic home. Oh, the drama.

Or the melodrama, I should say. This is maudlin, sappy stuff that I have to assume was made for the big screen only because ABC is no longer producing Afterschool Specials. It’s harmless enough, but it’s deadly boring and tells a story that is no different from countless other harmless, boring stories we’ve seen before. It is a movie that wants to be admired for being clean, when what audiences really want are movies that are, you know, GOOD.

D+ (1 hr., 30 min.; PG, a little bit of very mild profanity, some scary images.)