A sample of wholesome family entertainment that makes this critic thank God for David Lynch, Dreamer loses to Seabiscuit by a nose in the race for most inane underhorse, err, underdog crowd-pleaser in recent years. If the scales tip ever so slightly in its favor, it’s because Gary Ross’s fraudulent Oscar-nominee shamelessly piles the weight of the Depression upon the four legs of its equine hero, whereas John Gatins’s movie is content to play its basic girl-and-her-mare arc as naïve, straightforward family fare. “Ours is the only horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky that doesn’t have a horse in it,” Dakota Fanning muses in the opening voice-over, setting up the first of the obstacles to be solved tidily before the 102 minutes are up—namely, her father’s (Kurt Russell) disinterest in training his own horses following a row with her grizzled grandfather (Kris Kristofferson, building homespun grouchiness around an omnipresent toothpick). Rich meanie David Morse, stocked with black shades, black limos, and even a black, evilly whining champion stallion, cares only about winning, and forces Russell’s latest filly to race against his better judgment, resulting in the animal sprawled on the dirt track with a shattered leg. Little Dakota is around, so instead of putting the injured horse down, Russell takes her back to his stable and brings her back to health; since the mare has been christened Sonador (Spanish for “dreamer”), it’s only a matter of time before the limb heals and the horse is doing laps around the bend. Comeback time—would jockey Freddy Rodríguez, plagued with traumatic dreams of a previous fall, like to take the reins and compete in the Breeders’ Cup Championship? Perhaps the only way to make the predictable plotline (“Inspired by a True Story,” doncha know) interesting would’ve been telling it through the animal’s eyes a la Au Hasard Balthazar, though Gatins (writer of Summer Catch, Hard Ball and Coach Carter), needless to say, is no Bresson—there’s no mystery to his images, no energy to his staging. Russell once again provides solidity free from stolidity, Fanning does her winsome-chipmunk bit, and Elisabeth Shue is wasted in a bland supportive-mom turn. Dreamer isn’t offensive, just relentlessly soothing in an artistic medium where dissonance is so much more expressive.
- DreamWorks Pictures
- 102 min
- John Gatins
- John Gatins
- Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning, Kris Kristofferson, Elisabeth Shue, David Morse, Freddy Rodríguez, Luis Guzmán, Oded Fehr, Ken Howard, Holmes Osborne, Frank Hoyt Taylor
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