Seabiscuit Moves Ahead of War Admiral, 1938 Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire Black Beauty The Horse Whisperer Walk the Line (Advance Release)
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Kurt Russell: "Just between you and me,
Kris -- do you think we can get away with
this one?" Kris Kristofferson: "Hell yeah,
Kurt! Tell 'em it's based on a true story
and you can get away with murder."

Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story
Review written by: Alex Sandell

I wonder if the "true story" Dreamer was "inspired by" was the one where Seabiscuit made over 120 million dollars at the box-office in 2003?  The movie has some remarkable similarities.  From the horse about to be put down saved at the last minute by a washed-up individual, to the broken jockey getting his last shot at glory on the long shot steed -- this movie plays like a compact, family-friendly version of 2003's beloved comeback tale.  Hedging its bets, the film also includes the tale of a young girl and her relationship with the horse.  If it worked before, whether in Seabiscuit, National Velvet, or The Black Stallion, writer and director John Gatins is sure to use it in Dreamer, which should be renamed, Dreamer:  Inspired by Lots of Other Horse Movies

With films such as Coach Carter (inspired by a true story), Hard Ball (inspired by a true story) and Summer Catch (inspired by insanity) already under his belt, Gatins has proven that he is nothing if not a living, breathing assembly line; spitting out formulaic sports' movies to please the masses like Samsung pumps out low-cost HDTV's.  A John Gatins' film is always safe, predictable and fluffy.  Like an old pillow.  One you got sick of when you were still a kid.

While adults will roll their eyes at the predictability of this film and its many similarities to far better movies; its target audience should love it.  They're young enough that they haven't seen this all before.  And with that weird 40-year-old in a 10-year-old's body (Dakota Fanning) holding the torch for their generation, they may even champion the movie as a classic; "even better" than the 6 other films they've watched in their young lives.

Will their parents be pulling their hair out while their kids sit clapping in the front row of the theater?  Doubtful.  The movie is as cute and compact as a European automobile.  There's not a thing in the film -- and I do mean nothing -- that anyone over 10 won't see coming a mile ahead, but the beautiful scenery and competent camerawork somehow make it tolerable.  Although not inspired, the acting is passable and the older folks in the audience may enjoy watching some of their favorite actors and actresses, such as Kris Kristofferson, Elisabeth Shue, Freddy Rodríguez and Kurt Russell, trying their best in the cookie-cutter roles John Gatins wrote for them.

Would I recommend this film to adults without children?  Not a chance.  The movie doesn't hold a candle to other horse racing films like National Velvet, Seabiscuit or The Black Stallion, and may even come across as insulting to the genre with its manufactured cutesy moments (enough with the popsicle gag, already!) and failed attempts at serious drama.  Dakota Fanning is wearing out her welcome as the tender-hearted girl of advanced-intelligence and exaggerated facial-expressions and David Morse's role as a "bad guy" -- not a competitor, but a "bad guy" -- is poorly written and embarrassingly performed.  It's surprising the actor didn't grow a long mustache he could twirl around his finger while letting out an evil cackle.

The film is a contrived money-making tool for DreamWorks.  The movie colors safely within the lines and pulls all the right strings to get a reaction from its pre-pubescent audience.  It's non-offensive enough for parents to feel as though they got their matinee money worth, but adults paying full price and attending without children will be sorely disappointed.  A "been there, done that" sensation permeates the movie, making you wonder why you didn't just save the money, stay at home and rent the better version that's already out on DVD.  Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story isn't a good film.  Instead it's content to settle for being just good enough.

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Agree, disagree, do you wish you had a better education?  Email Alex!

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