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Seabiscuit
2003 - PG-13 - 145 Mins.
Director: Gary Ross
Producer: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Gary Ross, Jane Sindell
Written By: Laura Hillenbrand, Gary Ross
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Gary Stevens, William H. Macy
Review by: David Trier
   
It could be January 1st and critics would still be calling this the best movie of the year. It’s just that kind of movie, where you know you’re supposed to have this profound moving experience as underdogs battle the odds to overcome great adversity. But, and I’ve been called cynical before, I just didn’t get it. A wealthy man overcomes the adversity of the great depression when an oversized jockey leads a colicky horse to a victory that would make any gambler proud to feed his debilitating addiction.

This is the true story of a millionaire (Jeff Bridges) who buys an undersized horse (a horse) and hires a lonesome trainer (Chris Cooper) to teach it to be ridden by a fiery jockey (Tobey Maguire) who will lead it to victory. What? You thought they were gonna lose?

Bridges, Cooper and Maguire each do decent work. Supporter Gary Stevens delivers well too. And John Schwartzman’s cinematography is nothing less than perfect. But where Seabiscuit falls short is in its inability to validate its existence. Like many books adapted for the screen, Seabiscuit is chock full of useless tidbits that are moderately interesting but don’t serve the plot. This includes superfluous characters and theoretical character-defining scenes that don’t move the story forward. Not helped by the book being based on a true story, we’re forced to watch events (like Bridges’ character’s love life) that really aren’t relevant – they just happened to have happened.

Seabiscuit gets off to an intriguing start, but ends a solid half-hour after it should. The film does seem capable of putting you in a different time period, with excellent attention to detail placed on sets and costumes. But some of its characters really test the boundaries of silliness for a drama. William H. Macy is over the top as an over-the-top radio announcer and seems to be doing everything he can to make you laugh (to only mildly amusing results).

But maybe this is only noticeable because of the tepid nature of all the other characters. Although Bridges and Cooper are both wonderful actors, neither of them is given an opportunity to really move you. Oh, there are some cutesy jokes and some Hallmark-style monologues, but something about the whole experience just seems phony. They all really want you to think this is a great inspirational film, but deep down they know there really isn’t much dramatic conflict.

And I think the name Seabiscuit sounds vaguely perverted.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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