Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story

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Starring Dakota Fanning, Hollywood’s most prolific 11-year-old, this a kid-and-pony show that’ll have equestrian-obsessed youngsters slumbering with visions of horses prancing in their heads for weeks. Dreamer, however, is like Seabiscuit for the SpongeBob set — extremely satisfying for horse lovers but less so for general audiences, at least for those who can tolerate unapologetic displays of can-do positive energy for 90 minutes.

Screenwriter John Gatins took all sorts of liberties with the story of a real racing horse, Mariah’s Storm, who suffered an injury that easily could have ended her career. Mariah’s Storm and her trainers didn’t give up, however, and she came back to a string of successes, producing a brood of champion offspring. For Dreamer, her name is changed to Sonador, and Gatins adds a few after-school-special elements. Down-on-his-luck Ben (Kurt Russell) saves the injured Sonador from a callous owner and brings the mare home to his daughter, Cale (Fanning). Cale’s grandfather Pop (Kris Kristofferson), a retired horse breeder who’s grown apart from his son, is among those who tell Cale and her dad to put Sonador out of its misery. But the kid and the horse are determined, and together they urge everyone else to not give up.

Russell, Kristofferson and even the wee Fanning are not usually schlocky actors, and they bring an air of realism to the family story, keeping it from becoming too ridiculously sentimental. On the other hand, Dreamer’s horse story runs amok with underdog clichés and optimism unbridled, so much so that when Sonador’s big race day comes, if you listen closely, you can almost hear Rob Schneider shouting, in a fake accent, “You can do it!”

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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