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Television Review

'Horse Sense' Treads Lightly but Carries a Big Heart

November 20, 1999|LYNNE HEFFLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It seems that nothing builds character like shoveling manure, chewing beef jerky and wearing designer Italian leather cowboy boots at home on the range.

In the Disney Channel movie "Horse Sense," a spoiled rich kid leaves his cushy Beverly Hills environs to spend time with land-rich, cash-poor, cattle-ranching cousins in Montana and becomes sensitive, caring and really buff.

Written by Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes and directed by Greg Beeman, it's about an inch deep, but this inoffensive Joey Lawrence vehicle--the former "Blossom" teen idol is both star and co-producer--has its heart in the right place. It's a family affair, too: Lawrence's co-star is real-life brother Andy, who plays country cousin Tommy, an 11-year-old cowboy with a strong sense of justice: On a visit to California and city cousin Michael (Joey), Tommy has a rotten time because Michael--who has a Porsche, a cell phone and a snobby girlfriend--ignores him. The score is evened when Michael is sent to Montana to work on the ranch as punishment by his fed-up parents, charged with helping Tommy's poor but proud widowed mom (Susan Walters).

It's not long before Michael goes from sneering at sunsets and falling victim to Tommy's sly misdirections to being a bona fide buckaroo, saddling up old Lighting at sun-up, fixing fences out on the range and discovering family values. And, when he learns that the ranch is threatened with foreclosure, that college class in real estate and land trusts comes in right handy.

It's predictable as all get-out, but Walters has a nicely understated strength, while brothers Andy and Joey make a likable on-screen team.

*

* "Horse Sense" will be shown at 9:05 p.m. Saturday on the Disney Channel; Sunday, 1 p.m.; Monday, 8:20 p.m.; Wednesday, 9:10 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 30, 7 and 10:20 p.m. The network has rated it TV-G (suitable for all ages).

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