Dream Riders, produced by Bell Tower and released in1996, is rated PG for mild elements of peril. Matt Geriak and James Earl Jones are the two main actors in this film. The stunts were believably portrayed and the soundtrack conveyed moods of persistence, despair, and triumph.

Set in Fullerton, California, Dream Riders depicts the true story of an amputee trying to find meaning in life. Bruce Jennings (Matt Geriak) is the young man who loses a leg in an accident and battles depression, isolation, and uselessness. It is interesting to note the two different outlooks that his parents had at the time of the accident. Thinking it unfair, his mother, who felt responsible for the accident (as mothers are prone to do), nearly lost all hope. But his father believed with certainty that his son would live and would overcome his difficulties. After another very unfortunate event, Bruce realized an important truth. In order for your life to have meaning, you must not waste time. It is also interesting to see that the film was dedicated to Bruce’s physician, Dr. Frank Reade, who saved his life twice.

Bruce Jennings was a senior at Fullerton’s high school and a running back for their football team. For his birthday, he received a dirt bike from his parents. On a late night ride with a friend, Bruce was run over by a police car which was chasing a drunk driver. Because it was mangled beyond hope, the doctors were forced to amputate his leg. With the removal of his left leg, Bruce had to learn to walk with a prosthetic. He was almost fully healed. But, another tragic accident occurred. Bruce was run into AGAIN! While bicycling to strengthen his leg, he was propelled into the path of oncoming traffic when the driver of a parked car Bruce was passing opened her door right in front of him. In this collision with a motored vehicle, Bruce Jennings broke his remaining femur and lost one of his kidneys while damaging both his liver and spleen. Moving to a convalescent home, Bruce awaited mental, emotional, and physical recovery in an environment of rest, relaxation, and retirement. It was here that he met the founder of the home, William Piery (James Earl Jones). This man was a paraplegic who lost his entire family and the use of his legs in a car accident. Bill Piery made Bruce realize that unless he accomplished something with his life, he would struggle and be frustrated with this existence. Bruce found that something: he would execute a transcontinental bike ride.

The motive for the trip was a bet with Bill Piery. Bruce bet Mr. Piery that he could bike from California to the Old North Church in Boston in less that forty days with only a year of training. Arduously conditioning his body into a tightly coiled spring, Bruce was in the best shape of his life. His primary goal was to beat the world record for the trans-American bike ride. At first his family was not that supportive, but once they realized how important this was to his mental and emotional health, they gladly assisted him in training and in any other way they could. After crossing mountain passes, braving freeways, and camping in all kinds of weather, Bruce Jennings arrived at the Old North Church in thirty-eight days-- two days faster than the world record! Realizing what he could do if he put his mind to it regardless of his limitations, Bruce returned home a confident and satisfied man. Upon arrival in his hometown, Bruce was ceremoniously awarded the key to the city.

In this film, Bruce beats a world record and earns the respect of a nation. But the lesson of the movie is much deeper than this stereotypical ending. This lesson is summarized by Bill Piery in two of his conversations with Bruce, “If you waste time you waste your life. Loss of time is catastrophic because time is opportunity. Time is the essence of life.” Later during Bruce’s training, Bill also told him to conquer his dream and not let the dream conquer him. Don’t let your dream consume you; try your best and see what happens. Sometimes the process of the dream coming true is more gratifying and completing than the actual reward.

Although some of the acting was clearly forced, the film’s message was significant. Instead of wasting time in depression and self-pity after a hardship, conquer that hardship by facing it and living life meaningfully. A dream rider is one who understands that difficulties don’t destroy them, but makes them stronger.