The White Pony (1999)

White Pony DVD CoverUnlike a lot of Olivier Gruner films, The White Pony concludes with a climatic dressage competition that sees an evil teenaged girl sabotaging her cousin’s riding equipment, abusing her own horse and whacking her cousin with a riding crop. And also unlike a lot Gruner’s films, he stands around the whole movie with his thumb up his ass while his daughter treats his niece like so many road apples. Okay, to be fair, he does snicker a bit when his niece falls off her horse and lands in a horse pie, but he doesn’t get any credit for that because any of us would have done the same.

To say that Gruner fans need to manage expectations while watching The White Pony is like saying Gruner has only the most rudimentary command of the English language. Both are such understatements they border on the disingenuous.

Is it unreasonable to expect that Gruner roundhouse kick his daughter into next week for being so mean to the cute horses? Should I apologize if I was disappointed that he didn’t take it upon himself to confront the evil wizard who kept the princess prisoner in the form of the titular pony? And who didn’t want to see the Parisian Punchstud karate chop that leprechaun right in his stupid pot of gold?

You mean there’s a dose of the wee folk in The White Pony? Taking its rightful place in the pantheon of puny people movies, it stands knee high with other shirmpfests such as Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Leapin’ Leprechauns and of course its predecessor, A Very Unlucky Leprechaun! A sequel to a kiddie movie no one has ever heard of? I know, ewwww gross, right? But we’re in good hands here! No, not Gruner’s kung fu grip, but the hands of THE movie leprechaun himself, Warwick Davis!

Warwick’s bona fides as a leprechaun are unquestioned! Because he played Leprechaun in Leprechaun and five sequels! And he played Lucky the Leprechuan in both this movie and the previous one! At this point I’m not even sure if the guy might not be real freaking leprechaun!

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As great as it was casting Warwick for such a critical role, all the leprechuan magic must have got used up doing that because the girls who play the cousins (two sets of twins were used for some reason) are both so unengaging that it isn’t really a surprise we’d never hear from any of them again. More surprising of course is that after this film we still continue to hear from Gruner.

The goody goody city girl shows up at Gruner’s pony farm moroncially wanting to ride a pony despite never having riden anyting more advanced than the bus that brought her to the countryside. After she disobeys orders and tries to ride her cousin’s horse, the horse is injured and the cousin understandably hates her even more than she did before. But I’m supposed to be rooting for the city girl, right?

Into her life though comes the white pony right out of Irish mythology (or so the film claims – all I know about Irish folklore is these leprechauns, the Blareny Stone and U2) and Lucky, the local leprechaun that only she can see. Demonstrating a child’s ability to accept any silly thing that happens to them (and obviously never having seen any of Warwick’s movies where the leprechaun slaughters teens and eats babies or whatever), she makes fast friends with him and they agree to work together to lure the white pony to them, train it and win the big pony show.

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And the stakes have never been higher! Lucky needs a jewel from the pony show award to stick into a horn he’ll have to steal from the wizard in order to allow the princess to escape her horse form and return to Fairyland. City girl just wants a cute pony!

If you’ve ever watched any underdog sports movies, you’ll find everything that follows to be comfortably familiar (so comfortable in fact that I fell asleep half way through the movie and had to resume the next morning) from the idiotic schemes to get White Pony to go out for the team (traps that not only White Pony easily avoided, but also trapped City Girl and Lucky), to the training montage where City Girl and White Pony start to click as a team, all the way to that one last problem no one can solve until Gruner takes time out from enabling his teen daughter’s affluenza to mentor both horse and girl in the art of jumping over tall stuff.

Eventually, you can’t help but root for White Pony to win, simply because City Girl’s cousin is such a sociopathic prick. In addition to the previously mentioned bits of macro agressions she committed against City Girl, she also refused to let her use her saddle, refused to let White Pony be housed in the new stables, browbeat her father into making an embarrassing attempt to purchase White Pony from City Girl, wouldn’t let White Pony be transported in her horse trailer and even wouldn’t share her room with City Girl when she first arrived. Biggest screen villains ever: Darth Vader, Hannibal Lechter, City Girl’s Cousin.

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The production values are what you would expect out of children’s horse movie starring a French kickboxer. The big pony show at the end didn’t seem that big and Lucky’s encounter with the wizard was pretty embararssing in its minimalism. No explaination is offered for why the cousin immediately hates City Girl and some backstory about their mothers both being in love with Gruner’s character is mentioned in passing, but not in a fashion that seemed to affect that story.

Likewise, we’re just expected to accept that there’s this random leprechaun hanging around who could use his magic to assist City Girl in cleaning the stables, but couldn’t use it to steal the jewel from the cousin if she won the trophy instead. Lucky does state that he can only use his magic to benefit others, not himself, but getting the jewel would benefit the princess more than him, right?

For his part, Gruner probably enjoyed appearing in a movie where could put on “smart guy glasses” and not stretch out before shooting scenes, but he would definitely be the only one who enjoyed it. My kickboxing film-hating and fantasy film-loving wife liked it though, so that’s an endorsement of sorts I guess.

© 2016 MonsterHunter

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