Click here 4 and a half stars

Tobey Maguire More
a horse,
Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper and Tobey Maguire
team up for a tale of American history


Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

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One more summer hit... There are true stories and then there is the truth. Hollywood has a habit of confusing the two. I say this because upon first glance at this movie, one is going to believe that some of the men in it were saints, or close to it. Be aware, as you watch this, that it is more or less an idealized version of the true story that surrounded one of the most legendary racehorses of our time. And don't let that fact get in the way of a truly wonderful movie.

Jeff Bridges, Elizabeth Banks

Chris Cooper
The Great Depression hit some men harder than others. For automobile dealer Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), a car accident that took the life of his 15-year-old son was a forceful reminder that the sunny days of the '20s were over. Although Howard was able to retain much of his fortune, he found himself searching to fill the empty void in his life.

For Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), the end of a lifestyle that he loved and an era in American history came hand-in-hand. One of the last of the true range-riding cowboys, Smith found himself in an increasingly mechanized age where the once endless prairies had vanished into subdivisions, towns and fenced-off ranches. A man who had forgotten more about horses than most of the rest of the country combined actually knew, he found it difficult to find a good job utilizing the skills and knowledge he had accumulated over years in the saddle.

Red Pollard (Tobey McGuire) had gone through life fighting his way uphill for everything he had, literally. He had tried his hand at prizefighting, but wound up beaten, bloody and more often than not, alone. An excellent rider, he was considered to be too big to be a jockey and there were othrwise precious few jobs that involved riding horses.

These three men were united by an unlikely horse named Seabiscuit. Small, ungraceful and none too fast, Seabiscuit's career on the racetrack had been less than spectacular. But then Howard bought the horse and hired Smith to train him, and Pollard to ride him.

At first, Seabiscuit was met with a certain amount of apathy. But as he began to win, the canny publicity hound Howard began to market his horse like no other sports figure in the country (except for maybe Babe Ruth). The right sort of people began to get behind the underdog horse, such as radio reporter Tick Tock McLaughlin (William H. Macy). And Seabiscuit continued to win.

Off in the distance, coming from the east, War Admiral — thought of as the Perfect Racehorse — had won racing's coveted Triple Crown. The snobbish Eastern bankers who own War Admiral at first they think the undersized horse from the West Coast is beneath their notice. Howard pushes in the press for a match race, leading to an epic confrontation that pitted the two greatest horses of all time, who happened to be at their peaks simultaneously.

Of course, "Seabiscuit" plays with the heartstrings — unashamedly and sometimes unnecessarily. The story of the great horse is great movie material; it had been done before — in an awful Shirley Temple-starrer called "The Story of Seabiscuit" back in 1949 — but the horse with the heart bigger than a nation's pain deserved a much better retelling, and this is it. Bridges, Cooper and McGuire all handle their roles respectfully, trying not to succumb to the oversentimentality of the script, and bringing the essence of the characters to life.

Director Gary Ross wisely lets the visuals speak for themselves; the racing scenes are well-executed. Although the story is Hollywood-ized somewhat, the facts are actually stuck fairly closely to, which is to be commended. They also do a great job of recreating the gait and style of the legendary Seabiscuit.

The movie is inspiring, if occasionally treacly. The story itself lends itself to a big stage, and Ross provides it for his fine cast. If you can get past the sentiment and enjoy the story of the ultimate underdog, you're in for a treat.

The racing scenes deserve a big overwhelming screen with terrific sound.

See cast, credit and other details about "Seabiscuit" at Internet Movie Data Base.