Review Date: December 24, 2003
Director: Gary Ross
Writer: Gary Ross
Producers: Frank Marshall, Jane Sindell, Gary Ross
Tobey Maguire as Red Pollard
Jeff Bridges as Charles Howard
Chris Cooper as Tom Smith
An abandoned redhead with a bum eye meets an aging cowboy with a light spirit and a rich guy who just lost his son and all set upon a true-life course to train and compete an angry, discarded horse in thoroughbred horseracing. Seabiscuit is the name of the horse, the Depression is in full swing and Americans need an underdog for whom to cheer. Rocky Balboa is still decades away so for now, Seabiscuit will have to do. Adrian!!!
This is a good movie, but not a great one, because it takes elements and premises and ideas that we all know so well, massages them together for a nice, easy rub, but ultimately doesn't overwhelm with any noticeable creative touches, surprises or mind-blowing "finishes". It's ROCKY, but with a horse. There aren't too many better premises for any film than that of an underdog, a person who's been dealt all of the wrong cards their entire life, hasn't caught the breaks, has luck-- but only the kind that's bad-- but is ultimately given a second (or third or fourth) chance to make another "go" at the American dream. It's a great set-up because that's essentially what 99% of the populace wishes for in their own lives...another chance, another shot at the gold, another day to make things happen, another opportunity to fulfill their dreams. SEABISCUIT does a great job of setting up the various people (yes, the one point of originality in the film is that it's a group of underdogs who get together, not just one...) who will attempt to lead the way into our hearts, minds and souls. Thanks to effective filmmaking, I allowed these good folks entrance into my heart and mind, but my soul wasn't that accommodating. I guess that was the main element missing here: a soul, a life-force other than that of the basic tale of underdogs fighting all odds. The actors were all good, with Maguire, in particular, scoring points as a reminder to all casting agents that he's not just the "kid in the blue/red spandex" anymore. Jeff Bridges was also great as Jeff Bridges, as was his impeccable hair.
Chris Cooper was decent, but his character seemed to take a backseat during the film's final half hour. The film looked beautiful as well, included an Oscar-worthy score, developed at a nice pace, featured thrilling horse races, but sorta lost me when it kept going after its "first ending". I'm not sure I needed that extra 20 minutes. The film's message and inspiration were also well managed, and considering its true story origins (although some parts were "jacked up" for cinematic effect), prime to inspire others. That said, there wasn't one step of the film that I didn't expect from frame one, although I was somewhat surprised (and upset, actually) that the lead character was never able to complete the journey with his estranged family (odd). I could also have done without the umpteen speeches by Bridges unsubtly comparing his horse's journey to that of the men of the Depression era (we got it the first six times), but admired the film's capacity to parallel America's troubles of the time with its storyline (apparently the name of Seabiscuit was featured on more newspaper covers in 1938 than that of President Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler...wow) Surprisingly, I also appreciated the voice-over narration that popped up every now and again (usually, that's annoying) In the end, I would recommend that anyone interested in a "pick me up" or inspirational tale of the small fry going up against the top dogs, give this film a watch, especially they're fans of the days of old, enjoy the ponies and appreciate the superb acting chops of Jeff Bridges' hair.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian