Hippo Manchester
October 20, 2005

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Dreamer (PG)

Dakota Fanning is a plucky girl who believes in the power of believing and teams up with a horse that believes in the power of Twizzlers in the “inspired by a true story” Dreamer.

Add horse racing to golf, baseball, boxing and football on the list of sports that act as metaphors for (pick one) a country in economic hard times, the class struggle, the race struggle, one man’s internal struggle with his demons or a parent’s relationship with his son/daughter. Racing Stripes and Seabiscuit have more or less fulfilled my lifetime need for horse-racing-as-life-metaphor movies; like that extra cup of cheese for the movie nachos, Dreamer left me feeling overly full of oily orange substance.

Not to say that enthusiasts of family weepies won’t enjoy the tale of Cale Crane (Fanning) and her pa Ben (Kurt Russell). Ben has had some sort of soul-crushing disappointment that makes him perpetually grim and grumpy in conversations with his own father (Kris Kristofferson). Selling off the once-spacious family horse farm to keep afloat, Ben works a day job training horses for the standard villainous rich horse owner (David Morse) one finds in this sort of movie. Though Ben may have no joy in his job, Cale’s a big fan of the horsies. She tags along to work with him, which makes it difficult to pull the trigger when an injury to a horse named Sonya would normally lead to the horse’s demise. Naturally, Ben vows to nurse the horse back to health and Cale quickly becomes emotionally invested in the horse. At first the plan is just to make the horse well enough to breed but soon Ben, Cale and grandpa begin to wonder if Sonya (whose full name means “dreamer” in Spanish) might be able to race again.

Every single line of dialogue in this movie sounds like something one might find in a “Get Well Soon” greeting card or on an inspirational poster. Something about not giving up and getting back in the game and winners being the people who believe when others don’t. Every. Single. Line. Consider for a moment how tiring and demoralizing even one of these “hang in there, kitty”-type cheer-me-ups can be. Consider then how ear-bleedingly painful it is to sit through nearly two hours of it. Two hours of an assured outcome and relentless believing-in-your-dreams chirpiness. It’s as though the film is trying to hold us hostage.

Well, Dreamer, I give. What do you want, money? National secrets? Just make it stop.