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Movie Review

Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story
Written and directed by John Gatins
DreamWorks Pictures, October 2005, 102 minutes

With the success in recent years of Seabiscuit for the adults and Racing Stripes for the younger set, it was just a matter of time before a movie came out to fill the niche between these two extremes. John Gatins' directorial debut, Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story fits the bill perfectly, a family movie which accurately portrays the racing business and can be enjoyed by children and their parents alike.

Shot on location in Louisiana at the Fair Grounds and the old Evangeline Downs and at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky, cinematographer Fred Murphy provided us with breathtaking scenery of horse country and of the racetracks used, accompanied by a beautiful music score composed by John Debney. For racing fans who have wanted to see a Breeders' Cup run at Keeneland with Trevor Denman calling the races, this is your chance!

Kurt Russell plays trainer Ben Crane, whose daughter Cale (Dakota Fanning) is your typical horse-loving little girl fortunate to have been born into a family of horsemen, albeit a bit dysfunctional. In a story that some may dismiss as formulaic and too predictable, Cale falls in love with a horse who is injured badly and would have been put down by her father had she not been present at that tragic race. Of course, the horse is nursed back to health, with a number of setbacks along the way, and makes her way to the Breeders' Cup trying to become the first female to win the Classic with jockey Manolin (Freddy Rodriguez) making a comeback of his own after suffering a racing accident years ago. During the whole process, the fractured family mends their differences and becomes a real family again.

Although the story is pure fantasy, the business of horse racing as presented is not. The family experiences all the ups and downs of the business, from money trouble to having their horse unexpectedly claimed away to finally competing in the Breeders' Cup. While in Seabiscuit they seemed to want to avoid admitting that people bet on horse races, the principals in "Dreamer" do bet on their horse, as connections in real life will do as well. Horse racing fans will appreciate the efforts the writers made in explaining the Breeders' Cup to moviegoers unfamiliar with the World Championships. We found it quite entertaining to hear little Dakota Fanning very accurately explain the field selection criteria, as if she was reading it straight off of our website!

Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story accomplishes what its writer and producer set out to do. They may have pulled out every cliché in the book, but still came up with a beautiful interpretation of racing life and an exciting story that both young and old will enjoy following. The film is rated PG mostly because of the scary breakdown scene early in the movie which caused several in the theatre to gasp in shock. Definitely don't miss this one and be sure to take your family and friends too.

Note that if you see the film at a Loews Cineplex you can get free general admission to the Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park on October 29 with your ticket stub.

Rating:     4.5/5

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