Picks and Pans Review: Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story

updated 10/31/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/31/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning, Kris Kristofferson, Elisabeth Shue

If anyone deserves a change of pace at the multiplex, it's Dakota Fanning. After hysterically running for her life in Hide and Seek and War of the Worlds, she finally gets to do something completely different: smile.

Grinning comes easily in this feel-good drama about a Kentucky horseman (Russell, wisely understated) and his distant daughter (Fanning), who take in a promising filly named Sonya (short for SoƱador, Spanish for "dreamer"). When Sonya breaks her leg mid-race, her career seems to be over. But Fanning's tender care (and plenty of Popsicles) helps nurse her back to health and sends her galloping toward a potential comeback at the Breeders' Cup.

Based on the 1990s career of filly Mariah's Storm, Dreamer is a sweet tale and, thanks to Seabiscuit, a familiar one. However, the film, helmed by screenwriter and first-time director John Gatins, starts off sluggishly and doesn't hit its stride until Sonya does. The real winner is Fanning. Funny and feisty, especially when holding her own in front of the crusty Breeders' committee, the astoundingly talented 11-year-old just keeps getting better. (PG)

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