Dreamer is a standard live-action Disney movie that just happens not to actually come from Disney. There isn't one unpredictable moment in it, the music from John Debney keeps reminding viewers that it's all meaningful and life-affirming, and many scenes are shot with an added, warming glow suffusing each frame. Despite these marks against it, I ended up enjoying Dreamer, thanks mainly to a great cast giving decent performances. Sometimes familiarity doesn't breed contempt, sometimes it's just comfortable. Dreamer is just that, a comfort movie. I may not rush to revisit it, but I admit that I enjoyed it while it was on.
Inspired by a true story, Dreamer is all about a horse named Sonador that falls during a big race and sustains what should be a career-ending injury. Horse trainer Ben Crane (Kurt Russell) is angry at the employer (David Morse) who ignored his advice not to race the horse. With his daughter, Cale (Dakota Fanning), by his side, he ends up leaving the stables with the horse, a reduced cash amount for his work and no job. He also has his assistants, Balon (Luis Guzman) and ex-jockey Manolin (Freddy Rodriguez), and a plan to help Sondaor get well enough so that she can at least be used for breeding, even if she will never race again. But Sonador has a strong spirit, as does young Cale, and looks like she may want to race. That will take hard work and money. The hard work isn't a problem, but the money just might not be available.
Written and directed by John Gatins, Dreamer doesn't really have any major flaws apart from the sentimentality and predictability of it all. It's a nice film, probably too nice for many people to be able to stomach.
The big plus point for the film is the cast. Russell puts in another great performance as a decent everyman, Fanning does her usual good work in another film made during the peak of her "wide-eyed years" and the ever-dependable David Morse is as dependable as ever, despite being saddled with (no pun intended) the role of main villain. Guzman and Rodriguez are both a lot of fun, Elizabeth Shue is fine as Ben's wife/Cale's mother and Kris Kristofferson hangs about to be Ben's grumpy father, who may or may not help out and reforge a bond with his son. And then there's Oded Fehr, appearing about 70 minutes into the movie and getting a few minutes of screentime as a character who may as well have been named "plot device #3".
Cynical people should look for hundreds of films that they will prefer to watch before this one, but anyone who can handle the sugar content should find this moderately enjoyable. It's certainly a decent enough family movie so maybe keep it on standby for any time you may have a 7-12 year old in your home.