Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Friday, October 21, 2005  

Dreamer - The Little Horse That Could

Simply told and wholesome in manner, Dreamer pleases children and shouldn’t bore the parents. Ben Crane (Kurt Russell) is a racing horse trainer who saves a horse from destruction after the mare breaks her leg, but loses his job in doing so. The horse becomes part of his severance pay.

His daughter, Cale (Dakota Fanning), forges a better relationship with her father as they work to restore the horse to a healthy enough condition to earn a much as $300,000 for a foal.

There is a scene where Ben takes Cale to a breeding stable and a diminutive horse is trotted out as the male who will breed with Dreamer, but it’s a joke because the horse is the teaser who is meant to get things ready for the real stud stallion, Grand Slam. I was anticipating that we might actually get to see a scene from the Tom Wolfe novel, A Man in Full, enacted on screen which would have been amazing, but definitely not for children.

The breeding design is foiled, though, and the only hope Ben has left to provide for his family is if he can race the horse again successfully.

The movie creates a number of family conflicts which never appear to be very serious and are soon overcome as everyone pitches in together on their racing project.

‘Though produced by DreamWorks, this is a classic Disney film, and is tandem to The Greatest Game Ever Played released earlier last summer as nearly identical in applying every sports formula in a slick and competent manner, although the Disney golf movie was more interesting in its cinematography.

Dreamer’s racing shots are workmanlike, having none of the excitement of Seabiscuit, although the moment when Dreamer is injured is frightening and powerful.

Although the movie runs 98 minutes, it seems longer. The concentration of a great many family drama scenes throughout, and various reconciliations toward the end generate impatience rather than satisfaction since none appear to be very serious.

The acting is generally adequate and effective. The dialogue is better than what we get in most children’s movies, and the situations adult and not condescending. Although it is often difficult to distinguish what is being said since so much dialogue is spoken under the breath. The sharp and clear enunciation we get in old movies is lost today when lines are often mumbled. The characters are all stereotypes, of course, but played in a minor key. Dakota Fanning is a bit too wise for a child, but children won’t perceive her that way.

Part of the family drama is a supposed distance between father and daughter, and I wondered what the children in the theater thought about watching Ben come to appreciate his daughter more and express his affection to her. Do children watch such scenes in envy and hope, or with understanding and happiness?

A story about a father’s love for his child, the child’s love for the father, and the child’s desperate need for it to be reciprocated may be the most important drama in every persons life. I wish I could have experienced the reaction of the children to those scenes. Movies often illustrate the idyllic and imprint themselves on the young. I wonder how many children went home afterwards wishing their father was Kurt Russell?

I know I wished my dad was Fess Parker after I saw Old Yeller.

Anyway, as a movie for children I give Dreamer 3 stars out of four. It is well done but also well worn and lacks originality. As a movie for adults, I’d give it one and a half stars since it is pleasant, predictable, and ordinary.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:47 PM |