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Awesome: 23.91%
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5 reviews, 16 user ratings

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Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story
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by Tom Ciorciari

"This horsey movie comes up lame, Wilbur."
3 stars

An unlikely owner, a broken down racehorse, a jockey with issues, the least of which is his weight; all inspired by a true story. “Seabiscuit”, right? Well, yes, but it’s also the plot of “Dreamer”, the latest point of light in the ongoing campaign to make Dakota Fanning not only America’s sweetheart, but the biggest child star since–no, not Macaulay Culkin, folks, but Hollywood’s original moppet megastar–Shirley Temple.

Ben Crane (Kurt Russell), a stoic, down-on-his-luck horse trainer runs the stables for the oily Prince Tariq. Answering to the Prince’s number two, the smarmy Palmer (David Morse – and we know Palmer’s smarmy because he keeps referring to the film’s two most benign characters as simply “the Mexicans”, like some xenophobic Medford, Long Islander), Ben runs choice mare Soñador (English translation: Dreamer) against his better judgment only to see the poor thing break its leg in the last quarter mile. Fired for his I-told-you-so attitude Ben chooses to take $6,000 cash and the horse rather than the full severance owed him. Ah, but ben is crafty, he plans to breed Soñador with a thoroughbred and sell the foal for a couple of hundred thou. But before you can say d’oh! Ben’s balloon is burst with the news that Soñador’s infertile. What to do? What to do? Aha! Ben decided to race the horse himself, with the help of his ever-faithful stable hands (the aforementioned “Mexicans”), Manolin (Freddy Rodriguez) and Balon (Luiz Guzman), his crusty ol’ Pop (Kris Kristofferson), hottie wife Lily (Elizabeth Shue, reduced to fawning looks as her husband and daughter bond), and eerily lifelike daughter Cale (Dakota Fanning). Will they come up with the $120,000 needed to enter Soñador in the Breeder’s Cup? Will father and son and father and daughter reconcile before the lights come up? Will Soñador beat the 80-to-1 odds and come through for all concerned? Spoiler alert: Yes! Yes! And, what do you think? By God, yes! And if you don’t know all that by just looking at the poster outside the theater you need to either ask the elders to allow television in your village, because these plot chestnuts are as old as the movies themselves, or get permission from your mommy and daddy to be on this web site by yourself. Formulaic doesn’t even begin to describe this by-the-numbers family drama. Had this film been made in, oh say... 1946, with Elizabeth Taylor as Cale and Jimmy Stewart as Ben, it would have seemed like a piece of unmitigated corn. In 2005 it is pure craftsmanship and the workmanlike efforts of a game cast that keep this from sinking into the treacly morass of what passes for mainstream family entertainment these days.

As Ben Kurt Russell, who, in his latter middle-age, seems incapable of giving a bad performance, is his usual solid self. Square-jawed, perpetually well-coiffed (Miracle excepted) and sincere, if a tad long in the tooth to have a ten year old daughter back on the farm, Russell brings a touch of the old Disney class to the film. At the other end of the spectrum Luiz Guzman and Freddy Rodriguez, both familiar faces in indie circles, acquit themselves nicely; Rodriguez (TV’s Six Feet Under) in particular bringing a boyish likeability to what eaily could have been a rote piece of work that should raise his stock with casting directors. Kristofferson’s Pop Crane (it’s that kind of movie, folks) is pretty much a retread of every performance he’s given since 1973, yet the laconic rhythms that emerge whenever Kristofferson and Russell share a scene are undeniable. Elizabeth Shue (radiant into her forties; why isn’t she working more?) is reduced to pretty much window dressing; the screenplay’s only acquiescence to subtlety: having Ben not be a widower, to boot.

But what of everyone’s favorite ragamuffin? you ask. While Kurt Russell (and countless other of her co-stars) has sung her praises across the media, proclaiming her the most professional and prepared actor he has ever worked with (no small feat, that, considering he has co-starred opposite, among others, Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro and the late, great Raul Julia), I can’t help but find her somehow synthetic, like watching a teenager or, better yet, one of Jack Finney’s body snatchers trying to imitate the behavior of a 10-year-old – there seems to be something... off. Part of the fault most certainly lies with writer/director John Gatins’ screenplay, which, following in the clunky tracks of so many others (including himself; Gatins wrote this year’s earlier by-the-numbers sport flick Coach Carter), gives Fanning’s Cale dialogue much too insightful and sophisticated for her supposed age, not to mention his camera’s loving embrace of her every pensive look (and why do the kids in these movies have to have odd names? Little Ms. Fanning’s own forename notwithstanding). That Fanning is aloud to read a line such as “don’t treat me like a child” with all the spiteful venom of a bratty 17-year-old being told that she can’t wear that really short skirt out is only one such example of this Dakota love-in at its nadir.

A reasonably well-made film that, though is doesn’t exactly disrespect its audience, certainly doesn’t challenge it, either, “Dreamer” is exactly the kind of film that George Cukor once derided for wanting to be nothing more than a bit of merchandise: for your ten dollars you get to sit back, put your brain on hold for two hours and, with no lingering effects, do it all again one week later. Personally, and I think George would have agreed with me, I’d rather see a bad film that failed in its attempt to reach some depth, some greatness, than a mediocre film that easily achieved what it set out to. “Dreamer” is one in a long, sad list of such underachievers.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12823&reviewer=384
originally posted: 11/07/05 23:34:36
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/29/10 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
1/09/09 Anonymous. a predictable, feel-good movie :] 4 stars
4/01/08 rebecca does anyone have Manolin Vallarta ( freddy Rodigues scene scripts?) 5 stars
1/26/07 Tamara Leonard What a wonderful film! 5 stars
10/14/06 William Goss Harmless, typical, generic, and average. Less laughable than Flicka, at the very least. 3 stars
5/07/06 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
12/06/05 Jackie It was wonderful. 5 stars
11/11/05 shelley alexander Will go back to see it again and again! 5 stars
11/08/05 Stan L Good family film. With little to no profanity. Great for 5-12 year old girls and parents. 4 stars
11/07/05 S. Romans Fantastic! What a great family film. 5 stars
10/30/05 Cathy H Great Family Film...my girls and I loved it!!!!!! 5 stars
10/24/05 richard riopelle irrational hollywood spin 2 stars
10/21/05 Julia Crone Lovely film. Fabulous performances. 5 stars
9/14/05 Teresa Fleming Absolutely Fabulous 5 stars
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  21-Oct-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 21-Mar-2006



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