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Originally published Friday, October 21, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Dreamer" on track to become a classic tale of revival

The Dreamer of "Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story" is an injured filly with the heart of a champion. But her name is also an allusion to...

Special to The Seattle Times

The Dreamer of "Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story" is an injured filly with the heart of a champion. But her name is also an allusion to nearly every human character in this lovely family film, which has a way of resonating in one's imagination for days.

"Dreamer" is loosely based on the real-life trials and triumphs of Mariah's Storm, a promising racehorse who fractured her left front cannon bone in 1993 and staged an impressive comeback. The same injury befalls Dreamer after trainer Ben Crane (Kurt Russell) is forced to race her, against his better judgment, by his arrogant employer (David Morse).

A furious Ben brings Dreamer to his faded ranch for a long and arduous process of mending. Witnessing all of this, and rebuffed by Ben in her desire to help, is young Cale (Dakota Fanning), Ben's daughter. Cale finds her own clandestine way to forge a relationship with the horse, while also receiving more warmth from her father's estranged dad, Pop (Kris Kristofferson), than from the taciturn Ben.

Movie review 3.5 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story," with Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning, Kris Kristofferson, Elisabeth Shue, David Morse, Luis Guzmán, Freddy Rodríguez. Written and directed by John Gatins. 102 minutes. Rated PG for brief mild language. Several theaters.

All the Cranes (including Cale's mom, played by Elisabeth Shue), plus Ben's assistants (Luis Guzmán, Freddy Rodríguez), have a financial stake in Dreamer's uncertain progress.

But the script by John Gatins, who co-wrote "Coach Carter" and makes his directorial debut here, is really a fable about reciprocal healing. The revival of Dreamer's will to run becomes inseparable from the revival of human hope and feeling.

The mythic underpinnings of the story — the timeless dream of horse and rider meeting their destinies together — subtly ennoble an already sophisticated movie.

The actors, too, seem attuned to "Dreamer's" potential as a classic. Shue might have finally found a new niche playing to her fortysomething maturity, and Russell has some beautiful moments of understatement.

Not surprisingly, though, Fanning carries much of the film's emotional power, just as she did in "War of the Worlds," on a little face meant to be on the big screen.

Tom Keogh:

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