Directed by Gary Ross.
Written by Gary Ross. Based on the book by Laura
Starring Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper.
Release Year: 2003
Review Date: 7/22/03
Note to cousin Ron “I Got Somethin’ You Can
‘SWAT’” Webster--I’ve got bad news for you.
The bad news for Ron and for those of you
that would diss a movie right off the bat because it is about horses
is, well, “Seabiscuit”--the new Gary Ross film based on the novel
about the famed 1930s race horse--is actually a pretty damned good
movie. I didn’t want to believe that it was possible coming in,
because I could give a shit about horses, but the movie hooked me
early and thrilled me late, and I actually learned a thing or two
about horse racing in the process. There was even some applause in
my audience opening day when the film ended.
How? How was this possible? Well, I think
the best thing Ross does with his film is realize that 99% of
Americans don’t give a shit about horses...so, he starts off by
detailing the horse’s eventual owner, a West Coast Buick dealership
owner named Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), and gives us an insight
to his life and love of cars first to set up the story. As we work
through a timeline that begins in 1910 and works through The Great
Depression, we get to meet the horse’s eventual jockey, Red Pollard
(Tobey Maguire), and the trainer, Tom Smith (Chris Cooper, in his
first flick since winning the Oscar for
“Adaptation”), both men down
on their luck as they work through varying levels on lower-level
horse racing circuits. After all three come together, they discover
their winning horse and train it to become a top-flight race
horse...and eventually compete in a showdown with the greatest race
horse at the time, War Admiral.
The performances are amazing, from the three
principals and William H. Macy, who provides the film’s funniest
moments as radio announcer “Tick-Tock” McLaughlin. But the visuals
are what make “Seabiscuit” a $9.50 Show; seeing this on the big
screen is a must. No major special effects, just sweeping camera
shots of racetracks, horses, jockeys, grandstands and the like. The
lighting is just as interesting as scenes set in total darkness.
It’s a really good-looking film, if you get into that sort of thing,
which I do. The score is as over-the-top as you would expect from a
“The Little Engine That Could”-style film, but it doesn’t grate on
you; even the kitschy scenes with the press from the 1930s that once
again have that “Hey, Johnny, read all about it!” flair for the
ridiculous don’t get in the way. And, I thought the editing was
superb; the sequence detailing a tragedy happening to Howard’s son
was magnificent in its brevity, but it still conveyed all the grief
and tragedy that it should without taking up lots of screen time.
I thought the ending was a bit melodramatic;
you think the film is over, then it’s not, then it is STILL not, but
you leave happy. I thought it was strange to go from a child actor
who is supposed to be 16 to Maguire, who I think was supposed to be
22 when we meet him; the other actors play their respective
characters for almost 30 years, but it seems like they aged and
Maguire did not. Weird. But, this is a solid film and I can see
now why some folks have been talking Oscar in the same breath as “Seabiscuit.”
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard