Review by Sean Boelman
Dream Horse is the type of uplifting drama based on a true story that seems tailor-built to be a crowd-pleaser, and for the most part, it succeeds. Generally adorable, even if it is pretty unexceptional in most regards, few people will love this film but it’s also nearly impossible to dislike.
The movie follows a Welsh community who decides to breed a race horse in the hopes of making it big. It’s another horse racing underdog story, a niche already met by better films about more notable horses. It hits all of the expected beats in a way that is effective or satisfying, if not particularly original.
One of the issues with the movie is that it doesn’t have much of a regard for a clear timeline. It feels like the film is jumping from one major event to the next without leaving any time for there to be a deeper level of character development. It has more emotional complexity than the Wikipedia article on Dream Alliance, but the story isn’t much deeper.
The messages that the movie offers about being dedicated to one’s dreams and coming together as a community are nice, albeit not the most profound. For a film meant to shallowly inspire, it’s good enough — a tale of a group of everyday people who beat the odds in order to achieve something greater.
Neil McKay’s script does a good job of developing the central character, but fails in exploring anyone else. The rest of the community is made up of straightforward stock characters whose purpose is to serve the development of the protagonist. Perhaps even more frustrating is that the jockeys that ride Dream Alliance are basically a non-factor in the movie.
Toni Collette does a good enough job in her lead role, but there isn’t anything particularly special about her performance. It’s a straightforward role in a simple film, and she is more than likable enough to make it work. No one in the supporting cast really gets a chance to shine, even Damian Lewis, who is supposedly the main supporting player.
As a whole, the movie looks fine, but with horse racing movies, there is a lot more that could be done. This is shot like a sappy drama rather than a sports flick, and as a result, the races themselves aren’t that exciting. Instead, what we get are a series of plain, if pretty-looking, sequences in desperate need of some kineticism.
Dream Horse is a competent and inoffensive film all-around. For those who are looking for a wholesome and encouraging time at the movies, this conventional underdog tale certainly fits that bill.
Dream Horse is now in theaters and hits VOD on June 11.
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