The girl-and-her-horse story is given an ethnic twist and little else in Disney’s entertaining, feel-good pic “Ready to Run.” Director Duwayne Dunham creates a total fantasy world, not just of talking horses but of a wholesome and squeaky-clean racetrack where the only gambling is done with toothpicks.
Underneath the Disney-ized version of the world, full of vivid primary colors and Hanson music, there’s a pleasant little story accentuated by some heartfelt performances. Theresa Saldana stars as Sonja Ortiz, a single mother working at a Sonora Downs racetrack diner, and Krissy Perez is her 14-year-old daughter Corrie, who works in the stables for horse trainer Hector Machado (Nestor Serrano).
Corrie has a passion for horses and dreams of one day becoming a jockey like her father, Lorenzo, who was killed in a racing accident. Sonja, naturally, is vehemently opposed to Corrie’s career choice. Confined to the duties of a trainer, Corrie soon discovers that she has the unique gift of la confienza de caballos, the confidence of horses.
One horse in particular, Thunder Jam, with an impressive pedigree yet plenty of issues, needs her help the most.
Thunder Jam (voiced by Paul Rodriguez) is plagued by fears of inadequacy and can’t even get out of the starting gate. When his unscrupulous owner Garris (John Brazier) trades him to Corrie for a bag of peanuts, she takes the horse under her wing and — with the help of Mr. Machado and Moody (Jason Dohring), a circus performer-turned-jockey — transforms him into a winner.
In a script filled with the usual cliches including a barn fire and a puppy-love subplot, writer John Wierick emphasizes the importance of accepting one’s unique talents and how fear and self-doubt are far worse than losing any horse race.
Wierick also takes pains not to ignore the adults in this primarily teen story, and both Saldana and Serrano flesh out the pic nicely. Saldana is radiant as the conflicted Sonja and her budding romance with Serrano, although hardly original, adds much dimension to her role.
Perez, a delightful actress, is endearing as the plucky Corrie, and she and Dohring make for an appealing onscreen team.
Technical credits are pristine, including Michael Slovis’ color-soaked landscapes which nearly defy reality. Music is an integral part of the story, and Jilian Manges maximizes the sound experience with a clever touch.