The direct-to-DVD release, “Storm Rider,” which becomes available on Oct. 22, relies a little too heavily on using the word “storm” whenever it gets the chance. In the opening scene, Mitch (C. Thomas Howell) tells his daughter, Dani (Danielle Cutchran), that she took the horse competition she just completed “by storm.” That’s within the film’s first five minutes.
Mitch gets arrested for securities fraud, and Dani has to go live with her uncle, Sam (Kevin Sorbo). Yes, the father is having financial troubles, and the uncle just happens to be named Sam. This isn’t supposed to be a comedy, either. It’s got a few moments that are supposed to be humorous, but this is listed as a drama.
Dani is a spoiled 18-year-old, and she’s a little upset that she has to give up everything – including her horse. But Sam surprises her with a mule, an animal she has never trained. And as Jody (Kristy Swanson) points out, it’s not going to be the “only jackass” around the place. Dani names the mule Stormy, and she begins to raise it.
But Dani finds attraction to a show horse that is owned by this cute boy named Kevin (Darien Willardson) and his family. She practically abandons Stormy to be with this horse, and the mule starts to act up. But, soon enough, Dani will realize that Stormy brings her and Sam closer together, even when the times are tough.
“Storm Rider” is extremely cornball, and there are many on-the-nose moments, but some of the performances actually aren’t that bad. Sorbo, whom many remember from the hit television shows, “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and “Andromeda,” gives a great performance as the uncle who hasn’t had another person in his life in quite some time. He’s stubborn and a bit arrogant, but Sorbo’s acting is solid throughout, and the viewer grows to love and laugh at the character.
Another great performance comes from Jacob Buster, who plays Dani’s younger half-brother, Jordan. But as far as Dani is concerned, there’s “no half” between them. Buster is adorable, and he looks like he’s having a blast being in front of the camera.
Cutchran is beautiful, and there is a possibility that she might hit it big with her acting career. But she kind of has this “give it your best shot” attitude when it comes to her performance. There are times where she’s kind of convincing and times where she’s not believable at all.
Willardson completely phones in his performance as Dani’s love interest. He just shows up when he’s told, says his lines, and then leaves.
Sam Sorbo, Kevin’s real-life wife, plays the evil mother of Jacob, and she’s trying to get full custody, while her now ex-husband is trapped in prison. There’s a great moment toward the end where she tells Sam that he shouldn’t “get nasty” with her, and he responds with: “Why not? I’m talking to a pro.”
“Storm Rider” might have been a passable family film, but it’s filled with some pretty cheesy dialogue and scenarios that, unfortunately, drag it down.