What’s Dreamer got that the similarly themed, highly acclaimed Seabiscuit didn’t? How about the emoting of Dakota Fanning, playing the daughter of a distant father and broken-down horse trainer seeking redemption? Combine her heart-melting appeal with a broken-down horse, and you’ve got the family charmer of the year. That sound you hear isn’t galloping—it’s a family bonding.
Interestingly, Fanning’s role was originally written for a boy, according to director John Gatins in both an audio commentary and a featurette on the film’s cast (which also includes Kurt Russell and Elisabeth Shue). A midstream decision to offer the role to the young star inspired a rewrite. In the end, Dreamer wouldn’t have nearly the impact with anyone else, let alone a boy.
The 2.40:1 anamorphic picture is crisp and colorful, beautifully capturing the Kentucky landscapes and the colorful pageantry of the horse track. And the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack lends realism and poignancy to the racing sequences.
The supplements, which also include a how-to on horse grooming, deleted scenes, and a segment on working with thoroughbreds, are skewed toward young viewers but should interest parents, as well. And the commentary track is revealing and informative, as first-timer Gatins ruminates on both story elements and tricks of the shoot.
Time will tell if this joins Phar Lap and Black Beauty in the pantheon of great horse tales, but, for today, it’s a good one—and those others didn’t have Fanning.