Let's see we have a young girl, an injured horse, a family which is not communicating, financial worries, a jockey haunted by a fall and an evil horse owner, all of which are the staples for an obvious sweet feel good movie, a horsey under dog story. Not that I am saying that "Dreamer" is a bad movie, it is sweet, charming and yes it is feel good but at the same time it is so obvious with very little which is unexpected or drifts away from a formula. As such it may have been inspired by a true story but what writer and director John Gatins gives us is very similar to other equine movies with the quality of the cast being what makes it memorable especially the inspired casting of Kris Kristofferson as Kurt Russell's dad.
Horse trainer Ben Crane (Kurt Russell - 3000 Miles to Graceland) finds himself in possession of a racehorse with a broken leg when he comes to blows with the horse's owner and his boss who wants it put down. Having taken it back to his farm, his family and friends all help out in nursing the horse back to health, especially his young daughter Cale (Dakota Fanning - War of the Worlds). And as they all come together to help out the bonds which had been lost over the years are rebuilt as issues are forgiven and forgotten especially between Ben and his dad Pop (Kris Kristofferson - He's Just Not That Into You). But with nursing an injured horse back to health being an expensive business it could also be the ruin of the Crane family.
So from a storyline point of view "Dreamer" is very predictable, there is no hiding from that fact and whilst it does deliver a feel good experience there is little within this tale which will take you by surprise. To put it simply we have an injured horse that ends up healing a conflicted family and helping turn their fortunes around and it's not just the family as it is their friends as well. So we have this conflict between Ben and Pop Crane, an animosity over Ben having sold of the farm piece by piece over the years but through working together to help heal the race horse they heal their rift. There is also Manolin who after a racing incident has been haunted by it and bringing his career as a jokey to a premature end, yet as he helps heal the horse he also heals himself of these nightmares. It's all incredibly obvious especially with Ben's young daughter Cale being at the centre of all of this healing.
The thing is that none of this is bad, it does what it sets out to achieve as we have this element of underdog story and feel good movie. Writer and director John Gatlins has crafted an effective story which delivers the sense of anything is possible when we watch this horse which should have been put down recover. And the various troubles along the way from financial worries and disappointments do stop it from being too smooth. But it is less than subtle at times especially when we have another horse called "Goliath", far too obvious underdog reference for my liking. And whilst it's not completely sickly sweet it does often border on the cheesy when it comes to the emotional side of things.
But the thing which makes "Dreamer" work, which makes this obvious storyline so entertaining is spot on casting through out from Elisabeth Shue as Ben's loyal wife through to David Morse as a mean horse owner. Even the casting of Luis GuzmÃ¡n and Freddy RodrÃguez is spot on as they add a nice touch of light hearted humour to things. But it is the casting of Kris Kristofferson, Kurt Russell and Dakota Flanning which really is what makes it so good. Flanning maybe playing just a variation on a cute young girl who loves this injured horse but as a child Flanning has such confidence that it is believable. And as for Kris Kristofferson and Kurt Russell well it is simply that Kristofferson is perfect in so many ways to play Russell's father, it just fits from looks to the way they act.
What this all boils down to is that "Dreamer" is a seriously obvious movie and is your basic underdog/ feel good movie set in the world of horses. It doesn't stray from a well worn formula despite being inspired by a true story and the outcome of it all is nothing but expected. But it is entertaining, it is certainly an uplifting feel good movie and it is extremely well cast and it is the casting which makes "Dreamer" well worth a watch.