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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24.53%
Average: 27.36%
Pretty Bad: 8.49%
Total Crap: 6.6%

5 reviews, 76 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"Dances with Seabiscuit of Arabia...of the Rings"
3 stars

Man, there's something really frustrating about a movie that you really like...but only every fifteen minutes or so. Strewn throughout this overbaked and underwritten tale of equine adventure are several excellent sequences and winning moments. Perhaps an editor with a more merciless disposition could have tightened this one into something a bit more special.

Hidalgo is like an old car that you really want to hold on to, but it's tough to feel devoted to a car that stalls out every 25 miles or so. Everything about the production design and the overall feel of Joe Johnston's latest film just reeks of quality. The endless vistas of infinite desert landscapes, the majestic sight of beautiful horses as they race across the plains, a few action sequences that quickly manage to get your heart pounding just a little...

You'll find a lot of this in Hidalgo. Unfortunately you'll also find a several resoundingly predictable plot threads, big handfuls of dialogue that would generously be described as 'theatrically overwrought', and big empty pauses in the action where one finds little else to do but shuffle around patiently or perhaps sneak a peek at their watch.

Screenwriter Paul Fusco (Young Guns, Thunderheart) has clearly tried to stuff a little too much into his saddlebags this time out, as Hidalgo is overladen with about three subplots too many, plot divergences that blatantly take the movie off course...and periodically right into Yawnsville.

With a plot synopsis best described as Dances with Seabiscuit of Arabia, Hidalgo tells the rather fanciful* 1890 tale of one Frank Hopkins, a burnt-out former war hero who, sick to death of America's treatment of its native citizens, ends up a drunken clown in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Circus. It's there that Hopkins earns the attention of a sheik, one who takes exception at the fact that Hopkins refers to his mixed-blood mustang as the world's fastest horse.

[*Disney seems intent on selling Hidalgo with that "Based on a True Story" millstone wrapped around its neck. I wouldn't believe much of that if I were you. This is a 'true story' inasmuch as Frank Hopkins really lived at one point. Beyond that...legends, tall tales and outright fabrication.]

Before you can say Redemption Tale, Hopkins is on his way to Saudi Arabia to participate in a thousand-mile horse race across the desert wastelands.

If it seems like this thing is plot-heavy already, keep in mind that I've only covered about 25% of it. It seems to be that Johnston (Jurassic Park 3) had more on his mind than just a simple adventure movie; his Hidalgo has big earnest patches of soul-searching and hand-wringing and tradition-bucking and pulpy stuff like that. The same kinda stuff that has 12-year-olds fidgeting in their seats because they came to see something with action.

To be fair, Hidalgo does offer a few truly exciting moments. One sequence (spoiled by now in the trailers) featuring a massive sandstorm is more than a little cool to behold, plus there are a handful of old-fashioned fist-fightin' brawls to keep things punchy, and of course the requisite 'race moments' that you'd expect to find in a movie that's supposed to be about, well, a big scary horse race.

The supporting cast is made up of solid performers across the board, although Omar Sharif stands out as the head Shiek. The performance ranges from sincerely intense to borderline goofy, but Omar's great to watch either way. Louise Lombard makes for a sexily slick femme fatale, while character actors like C. Thomas Howell and the great Malcolm McDowell pop up early for maybe two scenes apiece. As Hopkins, Viggo Mortensen takes another step towards Action Star Supreme. After being an admired character actor for many years, Mortensen now seems poised to take his Aragorn and Hopkins personae and perhaps bankroll it into something of Harrison Ford-like proportions. Good for Viggo, I say. We could really use a new Action Movie guy these days.

This one's the very definition of a 3-star flick. There's absolutely some stuff in Hidalgo that's worthy of moviegoer attention, but it's also very intermittent in its delivery of the thrills. It's a movie that's easily worth recommending, but probably more as a weekend DVD rental than as a Big, Expensive Night Out At The Movies.

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originally posted: 03/05/04 19:01:53
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User Comments

12/08/14 zenny Lord of the Nieghs 4 stars
1/17/09 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
1/10/09 Anonymous. fun :] i love horse movies. 4 stars
7/13/06 R.W.Welch Okay adventure yarn tho Mortenson plays it a little too slack. 3 stars
6/22/06 Mary Rutland Glorious fun. 5 stars
9/15/05 Tom Burns A very enjoyable movie. 5 stars
8/30/05 ES American in the mid-east survives better in the desert than the natives of the land= crap 1 stars
7/03/05 Charlie Nothing special 3 stars
4/29/05 Quigley a very good film with good acting and even greater action, all on top of a good story 5 stars
4/16/05 Carol Conway Way too long 3 stars
3/31/05 hannaho Another example of Hollywood's view of history. 3 stars
3/26/05 Denise good and fun 4 stars
3/21/05 reptilesni An exotic and really well told story. 5 stars
3/18/05 B. D. Cole I fell asleep 3 nights in a row trying to watch the end of this ... dreadfull 1 stars
3/12/05 Bruce McLean unbeliveable 1 stars
3/09/05 Carolyn Rathburn Love every minute of it, they don't make enough movies like this. 5 stars
3/05/05 Gloria Anderson love this movie 5 stars
3/02/05 Maggie Dressler exciting andwonderful 5 stars
3/01/05 CanDance Walker I loved this movie! 5 stars
3/01/05 Jeanette T. all the movie lacked was a cartoon & a newsreel -- old fashioned fun! 4 stars
2/25/05 L.G. Enjoyed it; great wholesome film 4 stars
2/24/05 axe at turns eye-rolling and eye-popping 3 stars
11/27/04 HL Nice story..good action..keeps moving..... 4 stars
11/18/04 Jessie it was very exciting and moving! 2 thumbs up. 5 stars
10/15/04 Don Eckert Great action but didn't care about the character and subplots stupid. 3 stars
10/15/04 Emma Facinating entraping movie based on a true story 5 stars
8/24/04 ownerofdajoint good advenure flick;a little long...definitely worth seeing..great scenery.. 4 stars
8/16/04 elizaveta Viggo is the only saving grace - without his deep performance, it would be crap! 4 stars
8/16/04 Dan Booooring 1 stars
8/14/04 Li Uneven - but Omar shines as shiek 3 stars
8/11/04 Sharon very entertaining movie! 4 stars
7/25/04 Diane Hildalgo was a fun movie. I liked it. 4 stars
7/10/04 Confessions Of A Teenage Trauma Queen How in the blazes do they move those luxurious tent dwellings as fast as the horse race??? 3 stars
7/08/04 jasmine it is so good!!!love it!!! 5 stars
5/27/04 lucas isleno 3 stars
5/10/04 John fun concept, a few good moments but just a terrible script 2 stars
5/06/04 Mark Fulwiler Good fun! 4 stars
4/10/04 Spaz Viggo is amazing 5 stars
4/08/04 Bob Hidalgo, was a completely shitty movie. What was up with those ultra stereotypical Arabs? 1 stars
4/07/04 Austin Beggs It was great! I love the movie! 5 stars
3/25/04 Michelle Redel Viggo is captivating and I love the horses too! I would love to ride that cowboy yahooo 5 stars
3/23/04 Emily It's Great! Viggo did a wonderful job! Some of the editing was a little off, but that's ok! 5 stars
3/22/04 Jason Mundstuk Parodic plot, unbelievable twists, redeemed somewhat by last 15 minutes of self-realization 2 stars
3/21/04 chris i could tell you the ending before the movie started 3 stars
3/20/04 Brian A rip snortin adventure. I enjoyed it 4 stars
3/19/04 Alex Galli This is a fun and exciting movie with awesome action sequences. 4 stars
3/19/04 Pinto Mustang If you love horses and old-fashioned movies without pretention 5 stars
3/19/04 Suzy Boyle It was a pretty cool movie 5 stars
3/18/04 Wolf Slightly disappointing (CGI leopards SUCKED) but worth matinee. 3 stars
3/18/04 mystic Would go see it again just to see viggo!!!! 4 stars
3/18/04 Bobbi Jo Perez This movie was 1 of a kind. it was just awesome viggo was so good in this movie and really. 5 stars
3/17/04 sam really good 3 stars
3/16/04 alex reminded me of The Last Samurai. Damn similar beginning 3 stars
3/16/04 HorrorScribbler Okay ... unnecessary subplots, pretty horses. I understand real Hopkins a noted liar. 3 stars
3/16/04 A.S. brilliant,those who hate it,obsiously have not enough intelligence to know what is art!! 5 stars
3/15/04 sjrrsjyjsyrj booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
3/14/04 Marvin Excellent entertainment 4 stars
3/13/04 Jessica It was awesome 5 stars
3/11/04 Druce While not a blockbuster, definitely worth a viewing 4 stars
3/10/04 Richard Morgan Very entertaining. Finally a good movie for the whole family. 5 stars
3/10/04 misslooty Who was the editor for this film?but great cinematography 3 stars
3/09/04 BuBBa At first the movie was really fun but then it trailed off into a unneeded su plot of shieks 3 stars
3/09/04 Wendranh One of the few movies I want to see again! The horse is a better leading "man" than most w 5 stars
3/08/04 jcjs wonderful, adventurous, lovely, romance, horse and man 5 stars
3/08/04 Merry Writer 4 stars
3/07/04 Nancy O Really enjoyed it. Scenery great, Horses magnificent. Great leading men to watch. 4 stars
3/07/04 Kate Great! 5 stars
3/07/04 Amira Zahra AWFUL, Full of incorrect and negative stereotypes 1 stars
3/06/04 Jayman a throw back horse epic with a soul 5 stars
3/06/04 john awsome, lovely, graveful, delightfully surprised, simplicity, dance, beauty, grace, focus.. 5 stars
3/06/04 Lord Chu Great stuff, simple but charming. 5 stars
3/06/04 Ren This is an awesome movie!! 5 stars
3/06/04 Carver S. uuuhhhh....Viggo..on a horse....AGAIN.... 3 stars
3/06/04 paganchyk Uneven, but the good parts are really good 4 stars
3/05/04 Ray This is really good!!! 4 stars
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  05-Mar-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-Aug-2004



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