A review of “Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: **

Rating: PG for mildly upsetting situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes



It may be inspired by a true story but “Dreamer” has a been there-done that quality that can’t be mistaken for anything other than convention.

On the green green grasses of Kentucky it’s all about the horses. Breeders, trainers, riders and just plain folk live and breathe the equestrian life with Southern gusto. The Crane family is barely making ends meet on their ramshackle horse farm, according to the youngest Crane (the inimitable Dakota Fanning as Cale) a farm with the only horse barn in Kentucky sans horse.

The picture changes when Cale’s trainer dad Ben (Kurt Russell) quits his job because of a dispute over an injured horse and adopts the gorgeous racer in a moment of sentimental weakness. Starry-eyed Cale can’t get over her luck, devoting every waking second to nursing proud Sonador back to health with the help of Twizzlers and cherry popsicles.

In true melodramatic form things get worse before they get better.  Ben and wife Lily (a decidedly one-note Elisabeth Shue) are barely holding on to the farm, their marriage is turning stale, and a bitter rift between Ben and his dad (Kris Kristofferson) seems hopelessly irreparable.

You know where this is going. Cale’s incomparable spirit and belief in Sonador – a true champion sired by Dreamcatcher -- triumphs over all. The hard knocks just keep on coming – no cash for breeding, evil owners wanting rid of the competition, etc. – but Cale keeps right on believing.

High on cinematic saccharine Cale convinces one and all that Sonador can not only run but can win the Breeder’s Cup Classic, the dream of every horseman. Of course there’s the sticky issue of entrance fees ($120K) and race points (Sonador has few) and the wicked barbs of Kentucky’s snooty cynics.

I’ll cop to a couple of pluses. Poo-pooing Fanning is critic sport but she’s a consummate pro – always on target with the perfect word or sleight of face. I actually believed she believed in Sonador’s spirit even as I saw the ending coming a mile off. The horse-race footage is glorious; sinewy limbs straining towards the finish line with swiftness and grace.

Bland family fare that goes down easy but neither edifies nor challenges.