Tommy and the Cool Mule – A Movie Overview

It’s been a while, but I’ve been inspired by yet another bizarre horse movie. I don’t know what the producer’s inspiration for this movie was, but I’m thinking someone just owned a really nice mule, and thought to themselves, “This mule is a born star! It should have its own movie.” Thus, this movie was born.

This movie was on a DVD I bought at tractor supply for $4. $4 for 4 horses movies! What a bargain!

At first I wasn’t going to even post about this movie because it seemed so boring. But it started to bug me more and more as time went on. This certainly isn’t the worst horse movie, and other ones I’ve seen are so much better in their hilarity, but still. Why was this movie made?! Who comes up with these ideas?!

The movie open with a small boy petting a horse. His father, dressed in military fatigues EXCEPT NOT WEARING HIS HAT, approaches. Apparently this man, who has so much military experience he doesn’t know his proper outdoor uniform is being sent away. He gives his son a puppy, who serves almost no purpose the whole movie, and then he’s off to be killed in battle.

Fast forward years later, the small boy has grown into a normal sized boy, and he is the main character Tommy. He’s playing in his front yard when he suddenly notices a giant stock trailer, completely stationary and with men loading horses, literally yards away from him in his barnyard. What I’m saying is that the trailer has clearly been there a while, and Tommy didn’t notice. He runs over to inform the men they can’t take the horses because they are his dad’s horses. The interaction is incredibly awkward, possibly due to bad acting or a bad script, likely both, but the man tells Tommy the horses have been sold, so Tommy runs away, crying for his mom.

Tommy begs his mom to stop the men as they drive away, even pointing to them as they drive in front of them, “That’s them right there!” as though she wouldn’t be able to pick out the only truck and trailer driving away from their barn. I guess their private farm gets a lot of road traffic. Tommy’s mom pulls him back, and says she wants to talk to them. Apparently these horses were too expensive to keep, so she had to sell them. Tommy asks why she didn’t tell him, and she replies she didn’t think he’d be here when they came. That’s a good reason, he never would have noticed the horses missing if he hadn’t seen them physically leaving.

Moments later, they are having a family dinner together, and Tommy opens up a letter he received that day – an invitation to a popular boy’s birthday party. The invitation is a literal letter, on plain paper, in a normal envelope. This irritates me because invitations should be pretty, colorful, or fun, and part of the fun of having a party is sending out nice invitations. I know males are capable of sending out nice invitations (Mark shout-out), so he has no excuse! Everyone expresses their confusion at Tommy being invited, since he’s not friends with the birthday boy.

The next scene starts with two skater looking kids, walking along with their skateboards, discussing what they are getting popular kid Nathan for his birthday. More awkward interactions.

It's like K-Fed had a baby with Justin Beiber.
“Oh-my-gawd, did you get Nathan anything for his birthday yet? I’m totally not sure what to get him!”

To add to the awkwardness, Tommy walks up and they ask him what he’s getting for Nathan. Then, one of them mocks Tommy for his horses being sold, and suggests he give Nathan his saddle since he won’t need it anymore. This scene made me feel like somewhere in America, there’s a little town that follows different rules of society, where horses aren’t hobbies, but more like to an appliance, and if you don’t have a washer, dryer, or a horse, you might as just accept you are the poorest poor person to ever live. “Hah! Look at that moderately sized, well kept house! They don’t even have a horse in their field!”

The scene ends when a young girl walks by flipping her hair like 10 different times. I guess it’s equivalent to the Bend-and-Snap though, because Tommy is mesmerized by her and gazes at her like a love sick puppy. I’m getting the impression he has a crush on her.

With hair flipping skills like that, what 10 year old boy wouldn't?!
With hair flipping skills like that, what 10 year old boy wouldn’t?!

Tommy heads on home, and even though it’s been mere minutes from when he was last talking with the skater boyz, he steps through a fence (clearly a perarranged spot since his dog is waiting for him there) and seems surprised to find the skater boyz and Nathan all riding their horses. They may have been practicing quadrille, as they just keep riding in circles in a very small around pen. Also, they are dressed in their J. Biebs skater outfits while riding, which is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. Most, if not all, cowboy type boys I knew dressed in those tight wranglers, and just looked like horse people. These boys do not look like horse people.

Despite Tommy’s attempts to flag him down, Nathan completely ignores him, so Tommy moves on. Not sure what the point of that scene was.

To fast forward the plot a bit, it’s revealed that Nathan’s father wants to buy Tommy’s mom’s property to sell to developers, and told his son to invite Tommy to “close the deal” with Tommy’s mom. Not sure the logic behind that, but moving along…

Tommy, I guess now knowing 100% where the cool kids hang out, shows up again to their riding spot. Today, they are practicing running around two barrels. Nathan actually comes up to him this time, and despite his friends telling him Tommy doesn’t have a horse, agrees to give Tommy a change to prove himself. Nathan tells one of his minions to get him a horse, and moments later, Tommy is mounted up.

He is nothing special, as indicated by the hair flipping girl not even looking up at him. The boys watch, and Tommy falls off during a slow turn around a barrel. The boys all laugh, and Tommy runs off, leaving the horse standing there. This is a required scene in all horse movies, so I’m glad they got it out of the way.

Tommy’s mom is very angry at him. As she doctors his head wound (skater boyz don’t wear helmets), she demands to know what he was thinking, saying he hasn’t ridden in months. I don’t know about everyone else’s skill level, but I don’t think “months” is long enough to lose a great deal of skills. I have definitely gone months without riding at various times, and yet when I got on again, I still could ride. Out of shape, yes. But not regressing to a beginner. Maybe if it had been “Years,” I could see her being pissed, but “Months” is still being able to do basic commands, and likely not fall worthy.

Also, their own horses were only sold days ago. I guess it makes sense they’d be sold if no one was even riding them.

Next up is Nathan’s birthday party. Nathan invites Tommy to come play paintball with them, and he agrees. This brings him out to a ramshackle barn, where he hides in a stall with a mule. The mule gets hit by a paintball, and it kicks out, knocking some lumber into Tommy. The colored lights spiral around him, and immediately, the mule starts jive talking. Tommy is astounded, but their very brief conversation is interrupted by another kid coming up to help Tommy back to the party.

Tommy decides he has to know what’s going on, so the next day he returns to visit the mule. The mule talks to him again, and introduces himself as Jackie A. There’s no one being nearby, but the mule asks if they can go someplace else to talk so they are not overheard. It encourages him to ride itself, even though Tommy is weirded out by riding a mule. I’d be weirded out just from an animal telling me to ride itself.

Despite the fact this mule belongs to someone else, Tommy listens to his delusional mind, tacks up the mule and mounts up. The mule is a fan of slap-stick humor and promptly farts. This is a theme repeated throughout the movie – The mule is gassy and gross.

The real owner of the mule, Nathan’s dad, drives up and sees Tommy riding the mule. Instead of being irritated that someone trespassed on his land, and stole/borrowed his mule, he thinks it’s really neat that someone’s riding it, because “no one has ever been able to get near that thing!” How have they been taking care of it if they can’t get near it? Has the poor mule just been locked in a stall with no one caring for it?

Nathan’s dad offers up the mule, and despite Tommy’s mom hating Nathan’s dad, she accepts his offering. Somehow, Tommy’s mom is totally fine with owning/paying for this mule, so she just must have secretly hated her husband’s horses.

Tommy brings his mule back to the secret round pen hideout, where once again, Nathan challenges him to show his skills. Tommy starts running the mule back and forth between two barrels, and even though he looks exactly the same as the last time he rode, I guess by not falling off he greatly impresses them. Not falling off is always an impressive skill.

There are three barrels out there, but everyone is against using them in the traditional pattern. Also, they only use two of them.
There are three barrels out there, but everyone is against using them in the traditional pattern. Also, they only use two of them.

Tommy goes back and forth, seemingly dozens of times, and Nathan’s friends all tell Tommy he was pretty good, but Nathan tells them all to shut up. “It’s a shame you can’t take him to the show next week!” Tommy leaves, downcast, but moments later he regains his bright spirits and tells Jackie A it was awesome.

Moments later, Tommy has apparently abandoned his mule, and is walking down the town street. A man who had been watching his back and forth barrel routine comes rushing up to him, telling him how great he was, and that he should enter the stock show next week. He tells Tommy it’s an open show, so Tommy could enter with a mule, a horse, a donkey, a camel, anything with four legs. I don’t compete in these types of events, but I find this a little bit hard to believe. A camel? Dogs have four legs, could I ride one of those? These open stock show rules confuse and infuriate me!

The show promoter, in what I think is an effort to get more entries to his show, and therefore more money, informs Tommy that there is prize money involved, and that he could even make it on the pro circuit, because, “lots of kids do.” Do kids usual compete on the pro circuit? I was thinking there was a youth circuit, and then a pro circuit, but maybe the lines are blurred?

Nathan and his friends show up at the tail end of the conversation, and Nathan becomes enraged. HE was going to be the one on the youth pro circuit! Tommy is stealing all his glory and/or money!

The camera follows Tommy as he continues his walk, and along the way, somehow, he found his dog and is walking him. He has a brief run-in with hair flipping girl, who promptly makes an excuse and leaves, and then Tommy continues, running into Nathan coming up the block.

Time must work differently in this town. I’m not sure how Nathan, who was with him a block earlier, somehow warped up another block, unless he backtracked, went down a block, and then took the long route to get ahead of Tommy. He would have had to do it at a run to get there in time. Nathan really is skilled, no wonder he’s so popular!

Nathan has come up with some kind of plan to thwart Tommy, and challenges him to meet up and compete with him. Tommy agrees, and then goes home to discuss with Jackie A. Jackie tells him he’ll take care of it, but won’t reveal his plans, just laughs. Every time he laughs or talks, the camera zooms in on his mouth. It looks like they filmed the mule opening his mouth a lot, and then made up the dialogue afterward. Lots of long, draw out words that made no sense in the dialogue when the mule yawned.

He might as well be talking to him through a slot in a door.
He also laughs excessively. The majority of their conversations is Jackie A laughing.

Additionally, Tommy leaves Jackie A tacked up nearly all the time, but Jackie A is so annoying, I feel like he deserves it.

The next day, Tommy is filled with doubt and delays leaving. He frets about it for at least minutes, but eventually he decides to do it. Jackie throws in a, “I pity the foo’ that gets in our way!” as they swagger out of the barn.

Meanwhile, Tommy’s mom is at home when she hears a knock at the door. She thinks it’s Nathan’s annoying father, so she fills up so water and goes to the door with it. The door is made out of glass, so she can completely see though it, but she somehow misses that it’s a completely different man, and she opens the door and throws the water on him. He accepts her apology and reveals he’s actually the show promoter who thinks Tommy is the greatest. He asks her to come step out to his car to look at some paper, which doesn’t seem like he’s luring her out to his car to kidnap her at all. It’s totally normal to bring papers to show someone, but then not bring them up to the door with you, and instead expect the person to walk out to your car with you.

Tommy shows up to his challenge, and Nathan reveals that it will be a race down the trail, and the fastest one wins. If he wins, Nathan will win Tommy’s saddle, and if Tommy wins, he gets to keep the mule – the mule he already owns, and therefore does not need to win. He even points this out, but Nathan just says, “We’ll see.” Assuming Nathan’s empty threat of somehow repossessing the mule could actually happen in this town, this really seems like a lose-lose situation for Tommy. He’s gain nothing new, and instead just get the chance to lose everything. Why would he even bother to accept this challenge?

Against all logic, he accepts. Nathan rides first, taking off at a gansta lean.

He probably also installed hydraulics on the front end.
He probably also installed hydraulics on the front end.

The trail ends up not being a trail at all, and instead being looping through all three barrels, and coming back around. Nathan completes it in 12 seconds. Tommy does his round, and also completes it in 12 seconds. Nathan tells him he only gets to keep his mule, “for now,” therefore making this whole challenge pointless, because he can’t even accept the results.

Nathan leaves, and Nathan’s friends tell Tommy he did great. Tommy asks one of them, “One does he hate me so much?” and the friend replies, “He hates everyone.” How does this kid have friends then? Why would people hang out with someone who hates them?!

Nathan talks to his dad, and tells him he think he heard the mule talk. Which makes no sense at all, Tommy was the one knocked on the head, why would anyone else hear the mule talk? But rather than telling him he’s crazy, Nathan’s dad agrees that Tommy and the mule need to be separated.

In a scene that serves no purpose at all, Jackie A requests that Tommy get him bling if they win the competition.

Words fail me.
Words fail me.

I think they must have just really wanted to dress up this mule.

Quaker Oat Mule
Quaker Oat Mule

Poor, tolerant mule.

Tommy and Jackie prep for the stock show by taking one trail ride. Then Jackie declares he’s tired and wants to rest, but don’t worry, he is completely ready. Tommy heads on home, and lays on the couch to watch TV. With preparation like that, I feel like he has a really great chance to win! After all, most people that win at shows are the ones who have done nothing all year, and then the day before ride for just a few minutes.

He takes a nap on the couch while his mom and sister head out to the dance, leaving him all alone.While he’s napping, a horse trailer pulls up. Despite Nathan’s dad saying no one else was able to get near the mule, Nathan easily walks up to the mule and takes it to the trailer. Tommy’s dog has its one role in the plot and follows the trailer. I guess in this town, stealing other people’s livestock is not a crime, or perhaps the punishment is just a slap on the wrist, so it’s totally worth it just to win the local stock show.

Tommy oversleeps the next morning, and wakes up to no dog or mule. But this conflict is resolved extremely quickly as the dog shows up, and leads Tommy to the mule. Tommy retrieves his mom, and they pick up the mule. Problem solved. Tommy’s dog can now retire from the movie.

They have less than an hour to Tommy’s competitions, so they hurry off, but they end up stuck in traffic leading to the parking lot of the event. Tommy’s mom suggests that maybe he will be called last. This is probably true, since we find out later he hasn’t even entered yet, so I’m guessing they can’t call him if they don’t know he’s going to enter. That will work out well for Tommy.

While they sit in traffic, the rules of this event are explained to the crowd. This is the “Open Junior Ranch Class”. Once again, the show promoter informs everyone that the class is not limited to horses, and camels and cows could compete too. I have never seen any show make such a big deal about non-horse equines entering shows. I’ve seen donkeys and mules at shows, but it has never needed to be broadcast to the audience. It’s just assumed that people will get that its fine, or they can come ask about it if they are wondering.

Continuing on with the rules: They will receive points based on time, and on animal performance during a series of obstacles. The riders will start in the arena, and then leave to go to an adjacent wooded area where there are trail obstacles. The arena is surprisingly full of spectators, considering they will be able to see none of the actual event.

They must be content with the thought that somewhere, riders are having fun doing a challenging course.
It’s hard enough to get spectators to an equestrian event, why must you bring them here to then show them nothing?!

The event is starting, and Tommy and his mom are still in traffic, so Tommy’s mom decides they are just going to unload in traffic. Everyone honks at them as they unload, and then Tommy rushes off, causing us to see that this traffic jam is two lanes wide, and then there’s a huge open parking lot where no one is driving. I guess everyone really wants front row parking. He makes it to check in just in time, and is told he’s going last. Things sure do work out perfectly for Tommy!

Various riders are shown going through the course, and I did not see an actual obstacle. The judges are stationed at seemingly random spots, so I can only imagine that is where the obstacles are. Who would have thought that making a right turn was an obstacle?! Or, going up a minor hill?

Tommy and Jackie get to learn about hurry up and wait, as they now have to sit around to wait their turn. While they’re waiting, Jackie tells Tommy how he needs to ride him through the course, which includes instructions such as, “pull up your legs and lean into the turn.” Nathan, peeks over the top of the stall and sees them talking, his rage boiling over. He “knew there was something weird about that mule!” Aside from the talking, it seems like a pretty normal animal, so I think Nathan’s just looking for reasons to hate it.

It still makes no sense to me how Nathan is able to hear the mule when Tommy is the one who got knocked on the head.

Nathan, testosterone pumping from his anger over the mule, does his course, and earns the highest score of the day. The crowd goes wild, with the exception of Tommy’s family, who can’t even be bothered to clap politely, and instead, give each other incredulous looks. What kind of moral lessons are you teaching movie? Not even common sportsmanship?!

The announcer calls for Tommy, and gives him an introduction showing his clear bias towards him. The show announcer might as well just give the prize to Tommy, since he clearly loves him so much already. I feel bad for the competitors, who are apparently a bunch of losers who can’t ride anywhere as well as Tommy, the guy who just started riding again after “months”, and them likely been working with their own horses for months or years.

As Tommy hurries to get going, he gets whacked on the head by a random man walking by with lumber, a common thing at horse shows. He immediately loses his ability to talk to Jackie, and when he enters the arena, freezes up and does nothing. Cue the crowd’s laughter as everyone takes that moment to realize that mules are stubborn.

Finally, Tommy gives him a big kick, and Jackie starts moving. The announcer decides that with one person left, this is an ideal time to remind everyone of the rules, and goes through them again. Then Tommy heads out. Unlike the other competitors, who are apparently uninteresting, the announcer gives a play by play of Tommy out on course. At least this lets me know some of the actual obstacles: a hill, vague, difficult terrain, thick brush, and a (dry) creek crossing.

The score comes in, and once again, Nathan and Tommy are tied. Oh wait, they aren’t, the announcer just didn’t calculate the scores fast enough. No need to worry, Tommy is the winner! And he set the new course record! (quite a feat, since they said the course was new this year, and therefore logically there is no best score for it until this event).

They all gather in the middle of the arena for an award ceremony. Right as Tommy is about the receive a check, Nathan cuts in to announce there’s something up with the mule.

"There's witchcraft afoot!"
“There’s witchcraft afoot!”

Not even kidding, Nathan accuses Tommy of witchcraft, and says the mule talks. I don’t know why he thought this would go over well. I don’t think it’s ever been well received to burst into any gathering and accuse someone of casting spells (in modern society, anyway. He probably could have gotten away with this several hundred years ago).

"I beseech thou for hither mule dost have a spell cast upon ye!"
“I beseech thou for hither mule dost have a spell cast upon ye!”

And then Tommy would be burned at the stake, and the world would be safe from such evils as a talking mule.

But, obviously, Nathan’s accusation of Tommy’s evil is ignored, and everyone thinks he’s crazy. Tommy’s mom decides that the best thing to break the ice is to announce a party at her house. She tells Nathan to tell his dad she’ll be paying off the bank now. If the measly amount won at a junior local rodeo is what prevents foreclosure, I’m wondering both how she’s managed to keep her family afloat at all. I bet the money Tommy just made will pay for the party she just announced, and that’s about it. How she’s going to get the money to make next month’s mortgage payment? As far as I can tell, she doesn’t even have a job. Thank goodness her under-14 son is willing to step up and earn the family some money.

Luckily, this exceedingly long movie is finally coming to an end. In the next scene, they discover that Nathan’s father has been stuck in their bathroom for the entire duration of the stock show. Nathan’s dad goes back to his house and talks to his son. Nathan tries to tell his dad that the mule is bewitched, too. I think he’s going to have to lose that thought unless he wants to be known as the local crazy person.

It even ends extra well for Tommy, as hair flipping girl comes up to talk to him. She asks for his picture, and then invites him to go ride with her. It’s nice he’s finally hitting it off with the ladies.

And finally, to wrap is all up, turns out the mule’s talking doesn’t have anything to do with the bonks on the head. He just talks in general, which is why Nathan could hear him talk. It was just a coincidence he choose to talk after the bonk on the head, and he purposely didn’t speak after the second to show Tommy he can do it all on his own. I guess that’s a nice lesson for Tommy.

Thus ends yet another terrible horse movie. I watched it, so you don’t have to.

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