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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.91%
Worth A Look58.7%
Average: 15.22%
Pretty Bad: 2.17%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 16 user ratings

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Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Completely predictable and completely entertaining."
4 stars

Even as a little kid, I tended to frown upon movies in which cute little kids and adorable animals teamed up to win a big race and save the family from certain ruin–aside from the masterful “The Black Stallion,” the genre has always seemed to be a little too silly and manipulative for my blood. And yet, even though it follows the basic parameters of the genre, I found myself getting surprisingly involved in the new family film “Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story,” one of those rare family films that is a lot better and smarter than the assembly-line fluff that the commercials make it out to be.

The film stars Kurt Russell as down-on-his-luck horse trainer Ben Crane and Dakota Fanning as his adorable young daughter Cale. One day at the track where he works, Ben realizes that a champion horse that is scheduled to run seems too skittish but his objections are overruled by his sleazy boss (David Morse). Disaster occurs, the horse is severely injured and when Ben loses his temper, he is fired. However, Ben insists on taking the now-seemingly-useless horse with him instead of putting her down–he doesn’t want to kill her in front of Cale and he figures that if he can nurse her back to health, he can still breed her and make a healthy profit off of the potential sires.<

As the horse, known as Dreamer, begins to recover, she and Cale begin to bond in the manner that kids and horses have done since time immemorial. Before long, though, the local vet arrives with bad news–Dreamer is unable to reproduce. When her Dad attempts to sell her in order to make some of his money back, Cale tries to run away with her and the horse takes off like a shot. In a freak occurrence, not only has her leg completely healed but it has actually grown stronger. Dad decides to cancel the sale of Dreamer and puts Cale in charge of all the decisions. Cale comes up with a whopper–she wants to enter the horse in the upcoming Breeders Cup. Of course, it is a million-to-one shot and it would seem to be almost impossible to get her sanctioned, let alone raise the enormous entrance fee. Whether she and Dreamer succeed in any or all of these tasks is something I will leave for you to discover.

Okay, so “Dreamer” is predictable and fairly manipulative and only the youngest viewers are likely to be surprised by any of the developments. That said, I didn’t really mind that it was predictable and manipulative and was instead more or less caught up in its tale. Part of this is because debuting writer-director John Gatins never lets the proceedings get too cloying or sentimental–the plot conflicts spring from real life and not from a desire to add more melodrama to the proceedings–and partly because he has cast a group of strong actors who approach the material as seriously as they would a more adult project. The invaluable Kurt Russell is low-key and effective in the role of the father and Kris Kristofferson is just as good as the crusty-but-lovable grandfather. However, the top acting honors go once again to the freakishly talented Dakota Fanning, the young actress who has already beaten the likes of Robert De Niro, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise at their own game by the age of 11. Once again, she pulls off the not-inconsiderable feat of delivering a fully textured and nuanced performance while never coming across as just another over-rehearsed brat from Central Casting.

There are a few bumps here and there–the evil boss is just a little too much of a caricature for his own good (do we really need to have him refer to Luis Guzman and Freddy Rodriguez, who play Russell’s assistants, as “those Mexicans” in order to get that he is a meanie?)and the film never really finds much of a use for the usually reliable Elisabeth Shue, who gets stuck with the nothing Mom role–but “Dreamer” is entertaining enough so that only the most churlish would dare to complain too loudly about them. This is the kind of film that is a must-see for anyone with young children (provided, of course, that they have already seen “Wallace & Gromit”) and is still worth checking out for those who don’t.

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originally posted: 10/21/05 14:05:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/30/10 Sharon Curtis This is my favortie movie. I love it and always want to be part of the story when I watch i 5 stars
1/10/09 Anonymous. a predictable, feel-good movie :] 4 stars
4/02/08 rebecca does anyone have Manolin Vallarta ( freddy Rodigues scene scripts?) 5 stars
1/27/07 Tamara Leonard What a wonderful film! 5 stars
10/15/06 William Goss Harmless, typical, generic, and average. Less laughable than Flicka, at the very least. 3 stars
5/08/06 Diane Perkins loved this movie being from lexington. It was warm and inspiring 5 stars
4/12/06 Chantelle Venter It's a brilliant movie as i have horses of my own!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/07/05 Jackie It was wonderful. 5 stars
11/12/05 shelley alexander Will go back to see it again and again! 5 stars
11/09/05 Stan L Good family film. With little to no profanity. Great for 5-12 year old girls and parents. 4 stars
11/08/05 S. Romans Fantastic! What a great family film. 5 stars
10/31/05 Cathy H Great Family girls and I loved it!!!!!! 5 stars
10/24/05 richard riopelle irrational hollywood spin 2 stars
10/22/05 Julia Crone Lovely film. Fabulous performances. 5 stars
9/15/05 Teresa Fleming Absolutely Fabulous 5 stars
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  21-Oct-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 21-Mar-2006



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