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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Joe Lederer)

WISE BEYOND HER YEARS: Cale (Dakota Fanning) feeds Sonador a juicy tidbit. Thanks to her belief in the horse, she and her father, with the help of their trainers were able to nurse Sonadora back to health after breaking a leg in a race.

Dreamer: Shades of Seabiscuit Abound in Against-the-Odds Horseracing Adventure

Movie Review by Kam Williams

Dreamer is a delightful film that will enthrall young and old alike. Similar to Seabiscuit, the story recounts the exploits of a long shot turned into a horseracing legend with the help of a team of handlers who refuse to give up on each other or their horse.

The movie is based on the adventures of Mariah’s Storm, a promising two year-old who fractured her left front shin bone in 1993. The filly recovered from that life-threatening injury and was able to race again, confounding the odds makers at a Breeder’s Cup showdown a couple of years later against the favorite, Serena’s Song.

Apart from the broken leg at the outset and the big Breeder’s Cup finale, the intervening events which unfold in Dreamer bear little resemblance to what actually transpired in the career of Mariah’s Storm. The fictionalized account in the movie is a product of the imagination of the Hollywood artists that was inspired by the horse.

Dreamer is highly recommended, principally because of 11-year-old Dakota Fanning's performance. She has previously been paired successfully with Sean Penn (I Am Sam), Denzel Washington (Man On Fire), and Tom Cruise (War Of The Worlds). This time Kurt Russell benefits from Ms. Fanning's acting.

Kurt Russel stars as Ben Crane, a down-on-his-luck horse whisperer whose talents are not appreciated either by his boss Palmer (David Morse), or by the consortium of Arab sheiks whose thoroughbreds he trains. The action begins when Cale (Fanning) witnesses a race which ends in her favorite steed, Sonador (Spanish for “dreamer”) having a nasty spill.

While Palmer seeks permission from owner Prince Tariq (Antonio Albadran) to put the horse to sleep right on the track, Cale pressures her father Ben Crane to intervene, convinced that the horse can be nursed back to health.

Crane is unfairly blamed for the broken leg and fired on the spot. As severance pay, he gets to keep Sonador, provided he also agrees to “take the Mexicans with you,” meaning Manolin (Freddy Rodriguez), a disfigured jockey afraid to jump back in the saddle, and Balon (Luis Guzman), a loquacious steward with a good sense of humor.

The four take Sonador back to the Crane family farm in Lexington, Kentucky. The family patriarch (played by Kris Kristofferson) warns everybody that the horse can’t be rehabilitated.

Dreamer’s story is little more than a march to the Breeder’s Cup, however, the father-daughter relationship is the central feature of the film. Cale alternates between being adorable — to wise beyond her years, and is adept at winding her father around her little finger. Some of the slow-motion sequences capturing jockey Manolin’s triumphant return to the track are compelling, however, there’s never any mystery as to what is about to unfold. Nonetheless, the audience at my screening was so moved by the movie’s resolution that it cheered once during the denouement and again as the credits rolled.

Fine, old-fashioned, family-oriented entertainment.

Excellent (3.5 stars). Rating: PG for a mild epithet. Running time: 102 minutes. Studio: Dreamworks Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.



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