Like a thoroughbred put out to pasture, Dreamer covers ground that's been pretty well chewed over in the past. But if it lacks the fairy-tale quality of, say, The Black Stallion, it's nevertheless a perfectly enjoyable piece of family entertainment. The freakishly mature Dakota Fanning, her voice a little lower this time around, is a budding horse whisperer whose father (Kurt Russell), a disenchanted horse trainer, has just bought a champion filly with a severely broken leg. The plan is to get the horse back on its feet and off to a stud farm, but Fanning has bigger plans than that: She hopes to enter the prophetically named Dreamer in the next Breeder's Cup. As you can imagine, they don't call her Dreamer for nothing.
A determined crowd-pleaser, Dreamer might have been up to its ears in horse manure if it weren't for the restraint that the actors bring to their roles. As the woman of the house, Elisabeth Shue spends most of her time working the late shift over at the local diner, leaving tight-lipped father and self-contained daughter to fend for themselves. And Russell, in particular, knows just how much ' and how little ' emotion to dole out. As for the titular horse, we don't get to know her very well, but at least she doesn't have the hopes and dreams of an entire nation riding on her shoulders Ã la Seabiscuit. And at least the movie's about a girl instead of a boy, for a change. Not asked to do much more than a trot, Fanning remains a yearling worth watching.