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DREAMER: INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY
U.S. Release Date: October 21, 2005
Distributor: DreamWorks
Writer: John Gatins
Producer: Jon Jashni (executive), Bill Johnson (executive), Brian Robbins, Michael Tollin
Composer: John Debney
Cast: Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning
Running Time: 1 hour and 42 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (brief mild language)

Horse Picture's a Dull Day at the Races
by Scott Holleran

Charged by another good performance by affable Kurt Russell, Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story trots without much purpose until it crosses the finish line, which it does, barely. Writer and director John Gatins, who wrote the rousing basketball winner, Coach Carter, uses a similarly self-reliant theme—complete with a cameo by The White Shadow coach, Ken Howard—but the track is muddier than the court. This movie is a sloppy ride.

Of course, with expressionless Dakota Fanning as the little girl who supposedly yearns to have a horse, the so-so script loses something, which it can scarcely afford. One of the major problems is that Gatins does not provide enough evidence of his characters' goals and intentions, jumping around with no sense of place or continuity. In one scene, he brings all the disparate subplots together, with everyone sitting around the kitchen, exhausted and ready for the big horse race, yet we haven't seen them break a sweat. Unearned moments are everywhere.

The main thrust concerns the girl (Fanning, trying very hard), who wants to work with her dad (Russell), who trains racehorses for the evil businessman (David Morse). Dad's had past problems with his father (Kris Kristofferson), a horseman too, who lives on the horse ranch the family can hardly afford to keep. Mom (Elizabeth Shue) waits tables at the coffee shop to hold up her end of the bargain, while Dad and daughter are at work in the stable. This is about as exciting as it gets for most of the movie, which plays a lot like the father-daughter plot of Racing Stripes.

A couple of nice working men—a trainer (Luis Guzman) and a jockey (Freddy Rodriguez)—and a nice Arab (Oded Fehr) pop up now and then with minor turns around the track, but after a few passes, it grows tiresome. Dad gets fired for trying to save a fallen horse, and what might have been a straight shot at a simple, come-from-behind victory gets piled on with a lot of superfluous subplots. The pacing is uneven, the story is dry, and forlorn Dakota Fanning looks like she's still recovering from War of the Worlds.

The photography is stunning, Gatins' sincerity comes through in spots—especially through the Russell character, a self-made man who insists on trading value for value and relying on his own judgment—and the climactic race has its thrills. Good intentions, namely Russell's rational parenting lessons and the unifying force that goal-oriented action can have on a family, do not give this innocuous material the swift kick it needs, though it could have been worse, and it's always a pleasure to watch a pro like Kurt Russell.


REVIEWS OF SIMILAR MOVIES:
Ice Princess
Disney's Teen Ice Pic Beats Expectations
Miracle
Kurt Russell Skates in Sports Miracle
Racing Stripes
Nice Station Zebra
Seabiscuit
Three Men and a Horse
Charlotte's Web
Remake of a Children's Classic is Bland
 


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