Warner Bros. Pictures presents Dream Horse in UK cinemas from June 4th.
Jan Vokes (Toni Collette), a cleaner and bartender, recruits her initially reluctant husband Brian (Owen Teale) and local accountant Howard Davies (Damian Lewis) to help her bring together a syndicate of local people to breed a foal – which they name Dream Alliance. On the racetrack, he proves himself to be more than a match for the multi-million pound racehorses he comes up against – a true working-class champion, taking on the establishment at their own game. But much more than this, Dream begins to alter the lives of everyone in the syndicate, not least Jan’s. He is everything to her: friend, confidant and an escape from a life of always putting other people’s needs first.
Sports movies have been around forever, much longer than I have been on this planet. From Rocky in 1976, the boxing movie which put Sylvester Stallone on the map, to recent hits like Fighting With My Family, there is a wide variety of movies that tackle the highs and lows of each sport. However, there aren’t all that many movies that focus on horse racing. Sure, Clint Bentley’s Jockey debuted at the Sundance Film Festival back in January but other than that, there aren’t all that many movies that focus on this specific sport compared to football, hockey or even dodge ball. So, with a brand new movie regarding horse racing finally releasing in the UK, titled Dream Horse, is this worth the trip to the cinema? Let’s find out.
Dream Horse is based on a true story and stars Toni Collette (Hereditary & Knives Out), Damian Lewis (Homeland, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, Band of Brothers), Owen Teale (Tolkien) and many other brilliant actors in this stacked cast. The film tells the story of Dream Alliance, an unlikely race horse bred by a small town bartender, Jan Vokes (Collette). With very little money and no experience whatsoever, Jan convinces her neighbours to chip in their meagre earnings to help raise Dream and compete with the racing elites. Their investment pays off though as Dream rises through the ranks and becomes a beacon of hope in their struggling community.
Let’s start with the good. The performances are all really solid from the actors. No, they aren’t career bests, especially from Toni Collette, but every single actor does a serviceable job portraying these characters in the story that is being told. The cast all look like they are having a great time and in the end, that is how you get decent.
The film also sets a very nice tone and mood which feels incredibly upbeat and heart-warming. It feels joyous due to the fact that everybody in the film always seems to be cheerful and they never have those ‘down on your luck’ moments that I kind of expected going into a movie like this.
However, I have to say that Dream Horse is a deeply flawed film. My main problem is that we have seen this story beat-by-beat which leads this movie to be incredibly predictable and you guess the final outcome from its opening scene. The story of a down of their luck team rising to be brilliant at a specific sport/game has been used so much in the sports genre that anyone with a brain can see how the movie will resolve its main conflict. It’s incredibly predictable and is a story that we have seen a dozen times in the last twenty years in movies such as DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, one of the best comedies and sports movies of all time.
Also, the pacing is all over the place. Clocking in at little less than two hours long, you really feel the unnecessarily lengthy runtime because for large proportions of the film, not all that much happens. This easily could have been made into a brisk eighty to ninety minute watch and the scenes in the first and third act would feel a lot faster moving instead of clunky and disjointed.
Overall, Dream Horse is a delightful watch that doesn’t bring anything new to the sports genre. It is a delightful and heart-warming watch yet its lengthy runtime creates a first and third act that are incredibly clunky. Toni Collette and Damian Lewis are both great in the film plus the final fifteen minutes are a joy to watch but the predictable story holds this one back from being something truly special.
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