A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story includes scenes of family tensions, involving a young girl and her parents, and her grandfather. The movie features an early, brief scene where a racehorse stumbles on the track and breaks its leg (this might be difficult for younger viewers). As the movie is set at Kentucky stables and race tracks, some characters use colorful language ("hell" and "damn") and drink at a wealthy owner's home. While the girl is riding the horse, it becomes frightened and runs away in a panic, frightening the girl, who can't stop it (the father has her jump from a galloping horse into his arms, a nearly impossible feat). A jockey shows the girl surgery scars on his shoulders and chest, the result of a riding accident, and explains that he has bad dreams. The primary villain, a white male horse owner, exhibits racism toward Mexican workers. The father and his friend talk about breeding the mare, involving a stallion and a "teaser pony" (this might provoke questions for some kids).
What's the story?
DREAMER: INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY focuses on the loving relationship between a girl and her horse. Young Cale (Dakota Fanning) meets racehorse Sonya when she spends a work day with her father, a trainer named Ben (Kurt Russell). When Sonya breaks her leg in a race, Ben refuses to have the horse put down and buys her from the money-minded owner, Mr. Palmer (David Morse). Soon, Sonya is fit enough to race. A gruff sort, Ben has trouble showing his affection for Cale, in part because he has a difficult history with his own father, retired trainer Pop (Kris Kristofferson). Cale's mother, Lil (Elisabeth Shue) tries to help Ben overcome his disconnection, encouraging him to see the bond developing between Cale and Sonya, as well as Pop's involvement in the horse's recovery. Stable hand Balon (Luis Guzmán) and jockey Manolin (Freddy Rodriguez) also help in her remarkable recovery. In competition against his brother, wealthy Prince Sadir (Oded Fehr) decides to finance Sonya's comeback.
Is it any good?
Charming, predictable, and good fun for kids, John Gatins' movie stretches credibility (with a spotty record, Sonador is invited to run in the prestigious Breeder's Cup), but it's sweet as can be. It's enhanced by gorgeous tracking shots over wide Kentucky expanses, and earnest father-daughter exchanges. Russell is phenomenal, utterly convincing even when saddled with clichéd dialogue that initially sets him against Cale: "She's not a pet," and "Every racehorse is for sale!".
Cale feeds Sonya popsicles, and the horse follows her around in the paddock, in adorable, swelling-strings-scored scenes that will delight young viewers. While Cale and Sonya make Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story great for kids, the evolving relationship between Cale and Ben provides some substance for parents too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the value and difficulties of pursuing what might seem impossible dreams. How does this demonstrate the character strength of perseverance?
What do you think about Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story's portrayal of generational conflicts? How does Ben and Pop's longstanding tension affect Ben's relationship with his young daughter?
Themes & Topics
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