A galloping mediocrity: Dakota Fanning back in the saddle with ‘Dreamer’

In a true showing of mediocrity, “Dreamer” (Dreamworks) falls just shy of the mark.

Based on a true story, the film chronicles an injured racing horse and one family’s quest to nurse her back to health. Ben Crane (Kurt Russell, “Miracle”) takes the gamble of a lifetime by quitting his job as a professional racehorse trainer to care for the injured Sonador, the horse that his young daughter Cale (Dakota Fanning, “War of the Worlds”) likes. However, the family’s dire money troubles seem to have little effect on the actions of the character. With a few too many ups and downs in the road to recovery, Cale and her father are brought together in their hopes for the horse.

The movie jumps in too early, missing the important establishment of character relationships and forcing the audience to put too much trust in the actors. The film is more about family relationships than it is about horseracing. That being said, several of the relationships weren’t fully developed, such as the marriage between Ben and his wife Lily (Elisabeth Shue, “Hide and Seek”), and the relationship between the jockey and the horse. Furthermore, Fanning’s dialogue seemed a bit too mature for her acting ability. With far from memorable camera work, direction and writing, “Dreamer” is a shining example of the patchiness of modern American cinema.

Nevertheless, the movie is flawlessly cast. While Fanning is most likely the only childhood actress whose cute looks can win over the crowd in such a way, Russell plays the tough-yet-caring father extremely well in a style strikingly similar to his 2004 role as Herb Brooks in Disney’s “Miracle.” Kris Kristofferson is a perfect choice as Russell’s father, as the chemistry between the two makes for the most meaningful of the relationships portrayed in the movie. However, several of the actors are a bit underused, namely Shue, Freddy Rodriguez as Manolin the jockey, Luis Guzm?n as Balon the stable boy, Oded Fehr as the horse’s sponsor and David Morse as the horse’s former owner. With such a talented cast, more time should have been spent on their involvement, making full use of their acting skills.

While the movie most certainly has its “Disney-esque” feel-good moments, in general it feels just short. It is more of a family movie than a horse movie, such as “Seabiscuit” or “Hidalgo.” Unless you are really into horses or Dakota Fanning, go to the matinee. It’s not worth the full price of admission.

“Dreamer” opens nationwide on Friday, Oct. 21.

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