Thursday, May 20, 2021

A sweet ride: 'Dream Horse' just might gallop away with a few hearts

Every couple of years, a charmingly small indie film -- almost always from an English-speaking country other than the U.S. -- finds more than a few devoted fans in movie theaters everywhere.

As spring turns toward summer during what everybody hopes is close to the end of our pandemic worries, "Dream Horse" just might be the one for 2021.

Not so ironically, its major star, none other than Toni Collette, is someone who knows a thing or three about engaging little films, especially after starting her own illustrious career in the cheeky "Muriel's Wedding" more than a quarter century ago.

Of course, that comedy was brought to the States from Collette's native Australia by sturdy Miramax Films, when it was known more for its eclectic assortment of releases than for the unsavory conduct of co-owner Harvey Weinstein.

Ah, but we digress. Let's just say that Collette easily takes the reins over both an appealing ensemble cast and the truth-based story of "Dream Horse," as the working-class Welsh wife convincing many in her tiny town to go into the racing business. Certainly there are many reasons for her attempting such madness, and some even get explained in this spirited crowd-pleaser, which occasionally overwhelms itself with the all-too-familiar trappings of sports-related cinema. (And I don't just mean that every 30 minutes the place goes crazy.)

Still, that leaves myriad moments to grab, amuse, and simply make you feel good about pride and accomplishment taking precedence over the almighty dollar (translated across the pond into the pre-eminent pound). Many of those best scenes involve astute musical choices in a score credited to Benjamin Woodgates, group singing of country anthems, and one final humdinger of a surprise down the stretch that might make legendary Welsh crooner Tom Jones stand up and cheer.

Besides, it's also swell to see esteemed Brit Damien Lewis, who became a real star himself in a pair of award-winning series on cable's Showtime ("Homeland" and "Billions"), now actually playing a very nice and ordinary bloke for a change. 

"Dream Horse" rides into theaters Friday all over northeast Ohio and beyond.

Rated "PG" by MPAA: language and thematic elements; 1:53; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

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