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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 Erik Childress

"The Tortoise And The Tortoise"
2 stars

What are the most exciting parts of a race? The start and the finish, right? The anticipation leading up to the first bell, flag or gun explodes as we cheer for our rooting interest to get out to a good start. In the middle there are lead changes, maybe, but each passing leader means nothing until the final quarter or the stretch run when every last bit of energy needs to be mustled up to come out victorious. Hidalgo has a lot of middle. And the start and the finish aren’t all that spectacular either.

The story is based on events in the life of Frank T. Hopkins, a Pony express courier who also competed in long-distance races with his prized mustang and best friend, Hidalgo. As played by Viggo Mortensen, he’s a straight-up American Marlboro Man; a soft-spoken cowboy who witnesses the tragic events at Wounded Knee and retreats into the bottle as a member of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West sideshow.

His reputation has preceded him all the way to Arabia when a representative from the “Ocean of Fire” race comes to challenge him. A plague on your overhyped mixed-breed horse is the kind of attitude that comes with Aziz (Adam Alexi-Malle). How dare he be compared in the same lifetime with that of the Arabian breeds if he has not beaten the best in the 3,000-mile across-the-desert sprint. Well, nobody talks that way about his horse. So with the help of ol’ Bill and Annie Oakley, Frank is off to show those snobby Arabs what an American horse can do.

Although you’d never know it since Mortensen slowly eases our head to the top of our seats wishing we had a pillow. Viggo may have been the man in Lord of the Rings, but this quickly remised me back to those days pre-2001 when this guy offered an unprecedented stiffness in films like Crimson Tide, A Perfect Murder and as the potential love interest to Sandra Bullock in 28 Days. I’d say wake me up but Viggo never seems to go-go and certainly never knows when to when not playing Aragorn. Thinking back on the performance I was reminded of Danny DeVito trying to act for Chili Palmer in Get Shorty. When he squints he’s asked, “what are you trying to tell me…that you’re sleepy?”

But this is an adventure film and I can forgive a subdued hero in the “too cool for school” vein, but the action just jumps around at a whim; disconnected and frustrating. The rules of the race are never exactly hammered out for the audience. There’s an every-man-for-himself approach to it all with menacing cheaters doing their best Star Wars/Sand People impression in the hills. The race begins, there’s some thirst and lessons right out of The Tortoise and the Hare, and then everyone is back to the camp. Was there a lap we missed? What’s the route everyone is following? It’s not a straight 3,000-mile shot?

As we wait for the trek (I mean, race) to continue, Hidalgo decides to stop for some decidedly 1960s Sinbad-esque adventure material. If I bought tickets at Arlington Park and made a wager, the last thing I want to see is a jockey leave his mount to go rescue someone’s daughter (Zuleikha Robinson, resembling Janeane Garofalo with or without the veil) from a nefarious nephew. And if he does, the rescue better amount to something more than what I could see at a Six Flags stunt show.

Screenwriter John Fusco certainly has some kind of special relationship to horses and the Old West having previously penned both Young Guns films and the vastly underappreciated animated tale, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Why that relationship couldn’t translate over to Hopkins and Hidalgo is a mystery that even Omar Sharif’s gift of foresight couldn’t solve; one of many comparisons to The Lord of the Rings that are hysterical (i.e. a forbidden relationship between an outsider and the daughter of a man of stature, Hopkins’ refusal to acknowledge his heritage, a hot blonde with the hots for Hopkins trying to prove her status in a world ruled by men.)

Between Seabiscuit and Hidalgo, filmmakers seem to have no clue how to capture the wondrous majesty of the animal; treating them as impersonal attractions while the humans work out their ills. Director Joe Johnston has proven himself a more-than-capable storyteller in both the realms of classic adventure (The Rocketeer) and intimate character-driven pieces (October Sky). Here he’s trying to cover more than 3,000 miles worth of territory and we’re never quite sure where we are.

No man or horse can ride straight through the Ocean of Fire. That’s comprehensible. Instead of treating the journey as a struggle on par with mere excerpts from Lawrence of Arabia or even The Black Stallion, subplots have been created out of a complete mistrust in the audience to stay glued to a journey that will go beyond the time it takes to set a world record. Maybe that’s why I can’t stand auto racing. 500 laps – who has the time? Any race where I can go out for food (at a place where I have to tip) and still come back to catch half the action isn’t worth my time or interest. Especially when the action that does exist is half of what it should be.

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originally posted: 03/05/04 17:21:43
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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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