Starring: Spencer Locke, Missy Pyle, Bailey Chase
Director: Conor Allyn
Running Time: 99 mins
Walk. Ride. Rodeo. is an American film about the true story of Amberley Snyder who defied all the odds to return from a near-fatal car crash to riding rodeo on a national level.
An undoubtedly impressive and often very inspiring true story, there’s no denying just how incredible Amberley Snyder’s road to recovery was, but the film that depicts that very story doesn’t always show that in the most powerful fashion. While Walk. Ride. Rodeo. proves an enjoyable and often uplifting watch, it fails to go deeper and really entice you in the hardships that Snyder had to overcome. Occasionally relying on rather cheesy genre tropes and delivering the main personalities’ core determination in rather muddled fashion, it never really quite lives up to what is certainly an incredible true story.
However, that very notion of being a true story is the majority of what makes Walk. Ride. Rodeo such an engaging film, even if it isn’t the most powerful one. While inspiring sporting comebacks are always an enjoyable and uplifting subject matter in Hollywood, telling one that actually happened is a completely different ball game, with less genre cheese and far more emotional depth and heart at play.
Of course, the objective filmmaking difference between a true story and a fiction isn’t all that big, but there’s something deeper about a true story that’s very hard to replicate in any other fashion, which is principally why I found myself so engrossed in the story at hand here, rooting Snyder on as she made her way back to riding horses at the rodeo.
Another big plus in that same regard comes in the form of the lead performance from Spencer Locke, who is delightful as Amberley Snyder. Hitting a strong balance between sheer likability and genuine determination, you fully buy into the idea that she’s a young woman who is both a wonderful person and a strong-willed, competitive horse rider, and that plays a huge role in getting you on side as you will here on throughout the film.
However, while the film proves an enjoyable and often thoroughly uplifting watch throughout, it rarely manages to hit home with a powerful, inspiring emotional core, with a screenplay that’s both muddled and a little underwhelming, failing to live up to the reality of what is certainly a miraculous recovery.
So, you’ll likely know the form of how the story goes (either from real-world knowledge or having seen films of the same ilk), and that’s unfortunately where this film starts to feel a little weaker. A true story makes for riveting watching, but it alone can’t carry a film’s entire emotional core, and if this weren’t a true story, it would come across as rather generic and predictable, given there’s really not all that much strong emotional insight throughout.
An interesting way to look at it is to compare this film to something like Stronger, another true-life recovery story. There, the core premise and story development is largely the same, but far more attention is paid to the inner psyche of the main character, with the lows and hardships feeling quite a lot more intense and seemingly insurmountable. In the case of Walk. Ride. Rodeo., however, the way obstacles are presented is just too simplistic, effectively relying on the buzzword ‘determination’ to move them out of the way.
So, as well as the difficulties coming across as a little too easily removed, the screenplay’s most frustrating element lies in its bizarre lack of clarity when it comes to the road to Amberley Snyder’s ultimate goal – getting back on the horse and competing at rodeos once again.
Of course, it’s evident from the start that the film will see her recovering to ride once again, but in the middle portion, where she and her mother begin to clash at times, it’s often difficult to grasp who is supporting what outcome. At times, it seems as if she is eternally determined to ride again, while her mother is reluctant and unwilling, and at other, it all seems to be the opposite.
As a result, the predictability of the screenplay notwithstanding, I found myself totally confused as to what the ultimate goal of the main characters was for a large majority of the movie, something that clashes heavily with both the brilliantly determined lead performance from Spencer Locke and the true story itself.
Overall, then, I liked Walk. Ride. Rodeo. As an enjoyable and uplifting movie that tells a genuinely impressive true story, the film is engaging right the way through, although its screenplay fails to go deeper and really engross you in the hardships and difficulties that needed such determination to be overcome, really dampening the emotional potential of the story, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2.