out of Five
Running time: 105
Engaging feel-good drama that gleefully trots out all the usual cliches, to winning effect.
Dreamer could easily be subtitled Son of Seabiscuit
, given that it’s another horse-related feel-good racing drama that’s based on a true story. It’s written and directed by screenwriter John Gatins, who has a couple of other feel-good sports dramas under his belt, (Coach Carter
). All the usual cliches are present and correct, but Gatins really makes them work, thanks to a decent script and terrific performances from his cast.
Kurt Russell stars as Ben Crane, a gifted horseman, whose talents as a trainer are now being wasted on making money for other men, principally Everett Palmer (David Morse). Ben is emotionally distant (cliche number one) from his young daughter Cale (Dakota Fanning), but she’s desperate to learn about horses, so one day he lets her accompany him to a race.
However, when a promising horse named Sonya (short for Soñador, Spanish for Dreamer) breaks her leg, Ben intervenes to save the horse from being put down. Cale determines to get her racing again and sets her sights on the prestigious Breeder’s Cup Classic.
Russell is terrific as the emotionally reticent Ben, his craggy face masking a lifetime of disappointment. Fanning can do cute, wide-eyed plucky blonde kid in her sleep but she’s on top form here. Only Elisabeth Shue (as Ben’s wife) gets short shrift. The film might have been better off without her character.
There are several wonderful scenes in Dreamer, with at least five guaranteed tear-jerker moments. These include the deeply satisfying climax of the film; and a couple of scenes based around a story Cale writes in school. There are also some nice quirky little scenes, such as Cale making her first cup of coffee, or feeding Sonya a secret diet of ice lollies.
In short, Dreamer may be shot through with cliches but they’re good ones and, more importantly, they work. This is feel-good family entertainment of the first order and if you loved Seabiscuit, you’ll love this too. Recommended.