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The landscapes are lovely and the cast—Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Neill, Dianne Wiest, Scarlett Johannson, and Chris Cooper—does an honorable job, yet there are times when this leisurely movie seems so much in love with its own virtue and nobility that there's not much room left for the spectator. Redford directs this apparently upgraded adaptation by Eric Roth and Richard LaGravenese of Nicholas Evans's best-selling novel, and seems bent on matching or outdoing Clint Eastwood's The Bridges of Madison County as a class act. After a 14-year-old (Johannson) loses part of her leg and her favorite horse loses its mind in a freak riding accident in New York State, her mother (Scott Thomas), a big-time magazine editor, seeks to revive the girl's spirits by having the horse cured by a legendary “horse whisperer” (Redford) in Montana. Too long for what it has to say and too evasive when it comes to spelling out certain key details—like the financial arrangements (or lack of same) between the mother and the horse whisperer, and the full logic of the latter's therapy—this has loads of craft and honor but never quite takes off.

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