Dreamer, Inspired by a True Story, is one of those uplifting horse films that is good for the whole family. It features a stellar cast. Ben Crane (Kurt Russell) is the dad who barely makes a living training other people’s--rich people’s--horses. Kris Kristofferson plays his father, a gruff man who lost almost all the family’s land along with their money and their stock during his hard times as a racehorse owner. Father and son are shy with each other, bitter, and stubborn. The lightness comes from young Cale Crane (Dakota Fanning) who, without being cloyingly sweet, wants to follow in her family’s footsteps, much against her father’s wishes.
When a bred-to-the-clouds filly Crane is training breaks down critically in a race, he is angry enough to tell his greedy boss (played by Dr. House’s nemesis, David Morse) what he thinks of him which results in Crane’s firing and the Crane family suddenly having a race horse who can not run who is in desperate need of care and attention. The filly Sonador (translates into Dreamer) takes to Cale Crane’s quiet kindnesses, and it looks like the family’s plans to use her as the start of a breeding program will be successful.
Unfortunately, fate intervenes and that possibility is taken off the table. But the road back to success for Sonador and the Crane family exists and becomes the road taken as the family and their friends (including Six-Feet-Under’s Freddy Rodríguez as the shy and charming exercise boy/jockey) come together to better the odds.
There have been two recent horse films that have not worked so well for family entertainment. Secretariat, while telling an important story, did not have the acting (though it did have the actors) or the writing to make it an enjoyable story for kids. Seabiscuit was better written and better acted, but it wasn’t really a kids’ film, either. Dreamer is a good choice for family movie night, though very young children might find some realistic scenes a little hard to take. As the title says, it –is—based, rather loosely, on a true story. The DVD includes background on that true story, a mare named Mariah’s Storm, as well as a feature on how to take care of horses and how the crew worked with thoroughbreds on the set. Dreamer is a winner for horse lovers and belongs in the same paddock with The Black Stallion and the classic My Friend Flicka.