Tom Santilli is a respected journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association, Detroit Film Critics Society and Online Film Critics Society since 2010. Tom is the Executive Producer and co-host of the syndicated TV show, "Movie Show Plus," which has been on the air for 20+ years in the Metro-Detroit market and Mid-West. He is also the film critic for WXYZ-TV. Twitter: @tomsantilli, Facebook & Instagram: @filmsurvivor.
I'm not exactly sure why, but the "horse movie" genre continues to thrive. It seems each and every year, we're given at least two (2021 will be no different, with the animated "Spirit Untamed" coming to Netflix this Summer as well).
The latest entry out of the gate is "Dream Horse," and here is the copy/paste description fitting of all horse movies: An unlikely horse, groomed by an unlikely person who is almost entirely out of their element, becomes a sensation after a lot of hard work, dedication and training montages...the evil businessmen of the "establishment" get in the way, but never so much as to knock the film from its PG-rating.
So if horse films are your bale of hay, then you'll probably love the familiar rhythms of "Dream Horse." For everyone else, you'll most likely want to avoid this for the manipulative, steaming pile of horse manure that it is.
Based on the true story of the horse, Dream Alliance, the main character in "Dream Horse" is not a horse at all, but a woman, Jan Vokes (Toni Collette), a grocery-store clerk who goes on to become a horse trainer. Her small Welsch community rallies behind her to breed a horse, and it catches the attention of tax advisor, Howard Davies (Damian Lewis), who had once owned a race horse and who knows a thing or two about it.
Surprisingly, the first half of the entirely too-long "Dream Horse" has very few horses in it, and once we do get to the racetrack we're treated to some fairly embarrassing reaction shots of surprised people in the crowd, mixed with horse-racing footage that isn't terribly exciting.
A better version of this story - and certainly a better film - is the 2015 documentary, "Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance." As "Dream Horse" shows, it's almost impossible to make an effective underdog (under-horse?) movie that doesn't feel like a film trapped in the familiar parameters of its own genre.
This one stumbles out of the gate, and never quite finds its footing as it races towards a finish line we all see coming miles away.
Genre: Biography, Drama, Comedy.
Run Time: 1 hour 53 minutes.
Starring: Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Sian Phillips, Owen Teale, Joanna Page.
Directed by Euros Lyn ("The Library Suicides").
"Dream Horse" opens on Friday, May 21st, 2021.