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Overall Rating
3.8

Awesome: 27.45%
Worth A Look44.12%
Average: 18.63%
Pretty Bad: 0.98%
Total Crap: 8.82%

6 reviews, 66 user ratings


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Seabiscuit
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by MP Bartley

"Horse Power."
4 stars

Seabiscuit was the one that surprised everybody. The little underdog that came from nowhere and ended up duking it out with the big buys. Yes, Seabiscuit was the film that muscled out the likes of 'Cold Mountain' and 'The Last Samurai' to take a shot at the Best Picture Academy Awards of 2004. And, yes, that's very reflective of what the horse itself achieved. Because 'Seabiscuit' is not only a tribute to a horse that everyone had gave up on, it's a loving hymn to well-fashioned, old-school film making.

During the great depression of America in the early stages of last century, everybody was affected by it in hugely different ways. One of these men was Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), a self-made man whose amassed fortune is drained away by the depression and whose life is further ruined when his only son is killed in an automobile accident. Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) is another man now out of time, an ex-cowboy and horse trainer, living off the land and regarded as a freak by his fellow horsemen. And finally there's Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), an angry young man who was given away by his family at an early age to enable him to make a better start in life, than their financially devastated home could.

The one thing that eventually binds these three men together is an old nag called Seabiscuit, who had a promising parentage but has been written off as a lazy, yet fiery, no-hoper. Howard sees something worth persevering in however, and with Smith as the trainer and Red as the jockey, hopes to get Seabiscuit where he belongs: racing.

The story of an underdog defying all odds to take on the richer, faster, better trained peer is a story as old as the hills itself, and there's nothing at all in 'Seabiscuit' that surprises or takes the story into an unexpected direction. However it's precisely this sense of familiarity that director Gary Ross preys upon, turning in a yarn that's so handsome and old-fashioned, it's easy to imagine David Lean or John Ford cranking this one out in a quiet few months. And although it's a compliment to mention Ross alongside these names, it should also be noted that it would be a much lesser Lean or Ford work.

Ross doesn't have the storytelling strengths of either of them, the first forty minutes coming across as a collection of sketchy and unconnected vignettes that struggle to find a rhythm or flow. He's further hampered by a glowing narrator that threatens to drown the film in syrup. It takes a further turn for the worse when the narrator starts to spell out exactly what's the screen ("Tom's first glimpse of Seabiscuit was when he came out of the fog...". Thanks, but we do have eyes of our own).

Yet, after this rocky introduction, 'Seabiscuit' begins to beguile and charm you. It looks sumptuous for a start, with Ross' camera simply feasting upon the wide-open plains and rolling green hills that Smith lives in and Seabiscuit later trains in.

It has a wide-eyed lack of pretension that's very hard to ignore, so no matter how stubbornly cynical you may be, you'll be grudgingly rooting for Seabiscuit as he starts to sweep aside old favourites and old hands at various racetracks, and particularly come the showdown with the daddy of all horses, the War Admiral, a snorting stallion of a beast.

It doesn't pretend to any more clever or incisive than it actually is and invites you to just wallow in the warmth of a good story that drags you up the highs and pulls you down the lows, told with pleasure and fine work across the board. 'Seabiscuit' is anchored in 3 great main performances and a terrific one in the margins. Bridges, like Tom Hanks, rolls out his sympathetic everyman persona again, automatically engendering sympathy and trust in Howard with seemingly little effort. Cooper has the weatherbeaten, grouchy cowboy with a heart of gold thing, down to a fine art continuing on his fine work in 'Adaptation', and Maguire makes a pleasurable departure from 'Spider-Man'. With a real human to play again, Maguire shows more of his range as an anger filled young man, who might just win or achieve something if he could keep his anger in check on the race course. It's good to see Maguire play someone a little more spiky than goody two-shoes Peter Parker, and Maguire convinces.

William H Macy nearly steals the film however as the comic relief/ racing commentator 'Tick Tock' McLaughlin, in a performance that comes complete with bells, whistles and a klaxon. And real life jockey Gary Stevens is also good as Red's last-minute substitute and best friend George, known as the Iceman within the jockey circles at the time (and also bearing a strong resemblance to a young Henry Fonda too).

It's only the horse itself that doesn't make an impression, with it being too bland and 'in the background' to stand out or convince as having a strong bond with either his trainer or rider. But then, that was the real Seabiscuit wasn't it? And when Ross gets his camera into the track, that's when Seabiscuit really convinces and the film begins to fly. Thunderous sequences, done with vigour and pace, they fling you right into the thick of the action and throw the mud into your eye. The race against War Admiral particularly standing out as a stand up and cheer moment that only the truly great sports movies get right.

'Seabiscuit' is chockful of cliches. It's brimming with them, and the patronising voice-over does no-one any favours at all. Yet despite all this, it still manages to pull a last minute victory right out of the bag. And all down to a lot of faith in good, old-fashioned wholesome hard work. And since when has that been a bad thing?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8017&reviewer=293
originally posted: 10/19/04 03:07:37
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell very good 4 stars
4/25/10 Monday Morning One of the best. Solidly in my top 5. 5 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. one of my favorite movies, so inspiring :] 5 stars
10/22/08 Shaun Wallner Great story! 4 stars
5/26/08 PAUL SHORTT LITTLE MORE THAN A SUGAR CUBE OF GOOD INTENTIONS UNDERMINED BY A SACCHARINE AFTERTASTE 2 stars
4/21/08 action movie fan a bore from start to finish-tobey should be ashamed 1 stars
3/08/08 Pamela White inspiring and heartfelt story 5 stars
10/29/07 mb beautiful movie, deserved its oscar nomination. 4 stars
1/27/07 Tamara Leonard Loved the movie. Great cinematography. 5 stars
10/19/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 4 stars
5/18/06 chienne Phar Lap was better, same sort of story, but good all the same. 4 stars
5/08/06 R.W.Welch Fine acting and cinematography. Macy does a great bit as flaky sportscaster. 4 stars
5/02/06 Shit on a stick My name says it all 1 stars
10/16/05 Quigley good acting, story and directing, but this is no hidalgo. 4 stars
8/31/05 Captain Craig Great production values and a wonderfull story. 5 stars
8/13/05 ES Many times I thought this horse destine to be nothing more than a glue stick, yet never was 3 stars
7/01/05 Eddie Very good acting+a good story=Seabiscut 5 stars
6/01/05 Suan Lee I loved this movie and the horse won my heart 5 stars
5/08/05 Bluto Chris Cooper and Jeff Bridges are master craftsmen 4 stars
3/03/05 Steve Newman Very enjoyable, easy to the eye. Definately rent this on eout 4 stars
2/12/05 Sylvia Belle enjoyed the movie 4 stars
2/06/05 choser It is my life 4 stars
11/24/04 Emperor's New Clothes You just can't hate on something so sweet 4 stars
10/22/04 T thoroughly enjoyable film. some top-notch performances 4 stars
10/17/04 Elisheva Rison It was Spiderman--but on a horse! Cool! 4 stars
10/17/04 Charlene Javier Like riding a mule. 3 stars
8/10/04 Peeved Prufrock Hollywood tries to write a better story than God- not even adequate Cliffs Notes 3 stars
8/08/04 psychotic black dwarf Substance is there, but the horse just doesn't captivate...bummer. 3 stars
7/21/04 Harry J If you like great movies, this one definitely fills the bill. 5 stars
6/01/04 Frazier A good movie with a lot of heart, worth a look 4 stars
4/18/04 valerie hart very good movie its touching and emotional and heartfull 5 stars
3/24/04 Margie i'm a sucker for underdogs. good movie. Beautiful scenery, music and costumes added lots. 4 stars
2/26/04 Stephanie Throckmorton Ultimately poignant, after taking forever to get started. 4 stars
2/21/04 Denise Duspiva A good story 4 stars
2/17/04 Lindsay Fantastic!!!! What a great movie. 5 stars
2/01/04 britney this movie should win this years OSCARS awards 5 stars
1/16/04 earthling This is the most formulaic, predictable piece of sentimental crap I have seen since 1 stars
1/02/04 Andy a fun movie 5 stars
12/30/03 HorrorScribbler Kinda like "Rocky" only with a horse instead of a beefy Italian. 4 stars
12/20/03 Kent Wonderful, heartfelt movie. Great movie! 5 stars
12/18/03 alien assassin Captivating historic drama 4 stars
12/02/03 My Two Cents Seabiscuit and Pumpkin and Tic Tock are great. The history is captivating. Holds your inter 4 stars
12/02/03 Chris I really loved this great drama with so much crap out there this was a delight. 5 stars
11/26/03 Gi Gi havn't seen it, but the name SUX 5 stars
11/22/03 Law Feelgood, really true, interesting, a little long 4 stars
11/09/03 EthelbertP Enjoyed it. 4 stars
8/28/03 Mr. Hat Great horses.1st hour's OK, but gets shallow. Holds record 4 slo-mo shots w/dramatic music. 3 stars
8/28/03 JJ from da block Sea biscuits are good, but the butt biscuits they cause are sickening 1 stars
8/19/03 chris i can only handle so much "if you believe in yourself you can accomplish anything" crap. 3 stars
8/17/03 Lord Chu Inspirational & heartfelt. Though I couldn't help but expect Red to start wall-crawling:p. 5 stars
8/05/03 jeremy loathsome, boring, pathetic, uninspiring, melodramatic hooey. 1 stars
8/05/03 KINKO horse is dead, fall in a bed, cut of his head, forever DEAD hahahahahaHA!!!!!!! 1 stars
8/05/03 T Owens Brilliant 5 stars
8/05/03 Tiffany It had a slow start but a great finish. It kept you cheering for the little guy. 4 stars
8/04/03 Movie Guy Bah! It was boring as hell. Gag me. 1 stars
8/04/03 Joman the best feel good sports movie since Rocky 5 stars
7/30/03 ownerofdajoint what an awesome movie.go see it!!!!!! 5 stars
7/30/03 pgunn@akingump.com A disappointment 3 stars
7/29/03 Asshat Like we really needed all of those lingering shots of Tobey's face. What a wuss... 1 stars
7/29/03 Rod Johnston I had a Seabiscuit yesterday and it tasted like crap. It tasted like Kurts girlfriend Lish 5 stars
7/29/03 Susannah The audience cheered and gave a standing ovation when the movie ended. That's rare! 5 stars
7/29/03 Taylor Fladgate Heartfelt story succeeds in spite of the script. 4 stars
7/28/03 Haggs Wonderful. Theatre applause. How/where can I obtain an answer to a question I have? 4 stars
7/27/03 leonard An INSULT on ever level. Garbage at it's best. 1 stars
7/26/03 Shaq Okay. 3...words. TOBEY...MAGUIRE...NAKED. 5 stars 5 stars
7/23/03 Ryan Parmele Good but not great 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  25-Jul-2003 (PG-13)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  13-Nov-2003


Directed by
  Gary Ross

Written by
  Gary Ross

Cast
  Tobey Maguire
  Jeff Bridges
  Chris Cooper
  Elizabeth Banks
  William H. Macy
  Annie Corley



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