A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Horse Dancer, a low-budget film released directly to DVD and streaming, tells a familiar story. It's the tale of older teen girls/young women, their passion for horses, and their quest to save a worthy enterprise in dire financial straits. It's a standard "let's put on a show" plot, with beautiful horses and summer camp enthusiasm, but with little originality and even less artistry. The heroine is a flawed teen who has much to learn about what's important in life. The movie is laden with positive messages about never giving up on dreams, the magic of teamwork, the importance of keeping one's word, and finding your own specialness and then sharing those gifts with the world. No subtlety here: Characters relay those messages in simple speeches given to rapt listeners. Spoiler alert: Expect some sad moments when a featured character dies off camera.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE HORSE DANCER, Samantha "Sam" Wick (Sophie Bolen) is shattered when she first learns that she didn't make the Olympic Gymnastics team, for which she's been training forever. Sharing the news with her devoted grandmother, Sam realizes that perhaps she's a little relieved, since gymnastics isn't the great love of her life. Her real passion is for horses. So, she's really grateful when her grandmother decides to cheer her up by sending Sam to a horse camp for the whole summer. Problem is, while Sam is a sweet, caring family member, she also has major attitude problems and, because of that, no friends. She brings her unpleasant demeanor with her to Black River Horse Camp, where she instantly alienates just about everyone. And, it turns out, though she loves the majestic animals, she's never been near or touched a horse in her whole life. Samantha's road to redemption finds her at odds with a rich girl who's trying to be nice, the camp director, and all the girls in her unit. It's only when the camp itself runs into financial troubles and she makes her first tentative steps toward riding that Sam begins to figure out that life will be a lot better if she's willing to make good friends, join the team, and work toward a happy ending.
Is it any good?
Hopelessly amateurish production and badly conceived, predictable story is well-intentioned and has lots of simplified messages, along with nice shots of horses and livestock. Premise is based upon a young woman's lifetime love of horses. Unfortunately, when her dream of horse camp comes true, she's never even been near a horse. But no worries, it only takes a few weeks for this nonrider to become an exceptional trick rider/horse dancer. In addition, people change in a flash. One-dimensional characters learn important lessons, which don't take, so they have to learn them all over again. The action stops in several sequences so that important encouragement and guidance can be delivered. Performances are uneven at best, with a fine turn by Rachel Sowers as the heroine's mentor worth mentioning. Wholly inadequate, but The Horse Dancer may still have some appeal for fans who so love horse stories that they won't mind the inadequacies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss whether the quality of a film is important. How much does your interest and/or passion for a film's subject matter or viewpoint influence your opinion? Are you willing to see bad movies that reflect your personal interests? Why or why not? Do you think The Horse Dancer is a high-quality film?
Was Sam's ability to perform at the end of the film convincing to you? Do you think an individual can transition from beginner to expert in a matter of weeks? What does it take to become highly skilled in any sport or endeavor?
The theme of a group of people coming together to save the day is very popular in movies, especially for kids. What about the concept makes such a movie a "feel good" experience? What are some of your favorite films that fit this genre, often referred to in movie patter as "let's put on a show"?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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