Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story (2005) / Drama-Family

MPAA Rated: PG for mild language and themes
Running Time: 102 min.

Cast): Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning, Elisabeth Shue, Kris Kristofferson,  David Morse, Freddy Rodriguez, Luis Guzman, Oded Fehr, Ken Howard
Director: John Gatins
Screenplay: John Gatins
Review published May 9, 2006

Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story is hardly a true story, extremely loosely based on the real-life story of Mariah’s Storm, a horse that reportedly broke its cannon bone in a race, then once it was healed, went on to race again with some success.  This movie does make a reference to the horse, but the rest is pure imagination, as concocted by writer-director John Gatins, whose previous screenplays include other “inspired by” fare such as Coach Carter and Hardball.  It seems Gatins has a knack for taking real-life stories and filtering breaking them down into barely-recognizable formula Hollywood hogwash.  Well-meaning and uplifting, for those that seek such things, but not exactly great filmmaking by any standard measures; Dreamer is a prime example of “true fiction”.
Kurt Russell (Sky High, Miracle) starts as Ben Crane, a horse trainer that has seen his family farm dwindle down over the years due to some financial hardships, but he’s still doing well enough to provide food on the table for his adoring wife Lily (Shue, Hide and Seek) and precocious young daughter Cale (Fanning, War of the Worlds).  The horse he has been training of late, a blazing-fast philly named Sonador, he deems to be not set to race, although the manager insists, only to end in calamity.  With a broken bone, Crane is ordered to put the horse down, but the trauma to Cale would be too tough to bear.  After losing his job, Ben has an idea – to breed Sonador out with a champion racehorse, but when she proves infertile, all seems bleak for this downtrodden family.  However, a glimmer of hope arrives when Sonador begins to walk, and even run again, so with the love of his daughter on the line, he hands her over ownership and lets her get the horse prepared for the ultimate comeback.
Dreamer does have a nice cast, and a genial nature that makes it difficult to hate, but its own contrivances and adherence to predictable formula burden it.  I would have loved to rave about this film, much as I did with the Oscar-nominated inspirational horseracing film, Seabiscuit, but Gatins overplays his hand into the realm of sticky schmaltz far too often to dole out praise. 
There’s really not much to talk about except to mention that Dreamer is the kind of movie that definitely has its audience, particularly those that like unabashed feel-good formula family entertainment, as well as people that love anything to do with horses.  If this means you, you’ll probably want to give it a look, but those looking for something more substantive or original will be better off sticking to the far superior Seabiscuit.

Qwipster's rating:

©2006 Vince Leo