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The 'Buck' stops here

Published August 04. 2011 05:01PM

You may be familiar with the popular movie, "The Horse Whisperer," a 1998 fictional feature movie directed by and starring Robert Redford.

The documentary film, "Buck," a Sundance film festival audience winner, takes a look at the man behind the mythology of the horse whisperer.

Buck Brannaman is no myth. But he is legendary. No less than Robert Redford, who is interviewed in "Buck," marvels at his technique.

Brannaman apparently was the inspiration for Nicholas Sparks' "Horse Whisperer" novel and was a consultant for the movie version.

Brannaman doesn't so much talk to horses as calm them with his quiet and unassuming manner. He's not so much a horse whisperer as a gentle handler. He develops an uncanny rapport with the horses he's hired to train. He works with a horse's instincts, rather than against them.

He has no "bag of tricks" from which to choose from. In fact, the treats approach to training is discouraged. He builds upon the technique of two previous legendary horse trainers, Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt.

In her rather plain approach to "Buck," director Cindy Meehl approximates an actuality that is inspiring.

There are several moments of genuine humor, often involving Brannaman's cowboy comic approach, or that of his stepmother's.

One of the more fascinating aspects of Brannaman's story is that, because of having an abusive father, he was placed in a foster home.

The contrast between Brannaman's childhood and the way in which he and his wife are raising one of their daughters, who has become an excellent horse handler, further makes the point that one makes more progress with sugar and than with vinegar.

Brannaman's own theory is that, more often than not, the difficulty in training a horse is not with the horse but rather with the attitude of its owner. In one of its many too preachy bromides, the film urges us to control our emotions.

And, we're told, we don't have to live in the past, obsessing about some perceived or actual slight.

Buck's a way to handle horses, and humans, is something from which we can all learn.

Don't pass this "Buck." This is quite a remarkable film.

"Buck," MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children); Genre: Documentary; Run time: 88 min. Distributed by Sundance Selects.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "Buck" was filmed at cowboy, equestrian and other contests around the United States.

Box Office, July 29: "Cowboys & Aliens" opened at No. 1, as did "Smurfs," each with $36.2 million, dropping "Captain America: The First Avenger" to No. 2, $24.9 million, $116.7 million, two weeks.

4. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," $21.9 million, $318.4 million, three weeks; 5. "Crazy, Stupid Love," $19.3 million, opening; 6. "Friends with Benefits," $9.3 million, $38.2 million, two weeks; 7. "Horrible Bosses," $7.1 million, $96.2 million, four weeks; 8. "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," $5.9 million, $337.8 million, five weeks; 9. "Zookeeper," $4.2 million, $68.7 million, four weeks; 10. "Cars 2," $2.3 million, $182 million, six weeks

Unreel, Aug. 5:

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes," PG-13; James Franko and Freida Pinto star in the reboot of the science-fiction movie.

"The Change-Up," Rated R: Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds and Olivia Wilde star in a movie with ye old body switcheroo plot.

Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: and on Facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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