2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2004
This film has many of the qualities of an epic: exceptional production values & cast that place it in the same class as "Braveheart" or "Gangs Of New York". I see no reason why it would not be appropriate for kids, either. Like "Cold Mountain", another epic, I feel this movie is meant to be enjoyed without too much analysis. I particularly enjoyed Jeff Bridges' performance, having just watched him in a very different role in "Masked and Anonymous" in which he plays a Woodstock-era reporter. His promotional tours on behalf of a Sea Biscuit-War Admiral matchup are effective. Toby McGuire is also quite good as the troubled,hard-luck jockey, blind in one eye, who spends his off hours spinning foreign tall tales with his jockey friends; so is the humorous radio reporter and also real-life jockey Gary Stevens. The movie's first hour is filled with quite a bit of Depression-era history which adds to the bravura of the film, as do the later Mexican segments. It is perhaps historically inaccurate to portray Seabiscuit as an underdog, however, he was equal in size, I have read somewhere, to War Admiral. The movie, however, emphasizes that the trainer takes hard luck cases like Seabiscuit, who was lazy, and turns them into winners. Imdb.com has pointed out the numerous anachronisms in the film; they claim,for example, that a statue of Seabiscuit is clearly visible in the Santa Anita Raceway segments, and that the starting gates used in most of the races are historically inaccurate ; I doubt this would be much concern to the average viewer. One possible trouble with these Hollywood epics this and the others mentioned above is that they are pure escapism, that in all likelihood the eras portrayed in these movies were not so glamorous as they are portrayed, except perhaps for a select few. You can perhaps excuse Nicole Kidman's glamourous portrayal in "Cold Mountain" because her character was from a big city--Charleston.No matter how you cut it, despite humble beginnings and even despite the tragic loss of a son, a successful racehorse owner's life is a privileged one.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2004
Having read about Seabiscuit and having been a racing fan for a number of years, I thouroughly enjoyed this movie. I especially thought that Gary Stevens did a wonderful acting job. The racing scenes were quite realistic and the special effects were wonderful. I also liked the bonus features as they gave the viewer an even better idea of what racing was really like. The scenes out at the farm were beautiful and the soundtrack delightful.
If you haven't read the book, this is one of the few cases where I think it might be a better idea to see the movie and then read the book. The book is a bit more detailed and throws the reader into the era better than the movie.
This story is a bit of a fairy tale but back in the 20's and 30's, the world of racing was not like it is today. Jockeys had it really hard and some of that is lost in the translation to the screen. Even today, a jockey's life is not easy and I recommend viewing the documentary "Jockey" as a follow up to this to all interested parties.
My few complaints about "Seabiscuit" are as follows: I happened to see a scene at Santa Anita and lo and behold caught a glimpse of the statue of Seabiscuit that is really there today and wasn't when this movie takes place! I guess the average viewer wouldn't know that but it did insult the intelligence of the true fan!
Secondly, jockey's didn't ride in the same position back then as they do today. Today, the stirrups are so short as the jockey appears to sit on his heels. Back then, knees weren't bent as far, they rode more like a cowboy then a jockey. This should've been corrected as we all know that Gary Stevens could probably ride a horse in any position and do it well!
Thirdly, I didn't feel like it was in the 30's. The Sting did a much better job of giving that aura. This movie did not.
All in all, I did love it!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2004
I originally had my doubts about this movie. I saw the previews and really wasn't that interested. But my dad went and saw this movie and said he was going to buy it when it came out on DVD. Getting my father to go see movies is like pulling teeth and he had never bought a movie before in his life. So naturally this got my curiosity up and I went to see Seabiscuit. I would rank this movie with Citizen Kane and A Beautiful Mind. Don't miss it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2009
It is not only the story of this magnificient horse, it is the story of courage and determination of many persons in a very hard time of this last century.
It is a true Story and it is make you thinking on yourself too !!!
How we been react in the same situations.
Buy this DVD.....you will never see the horses, the same way.
I have horses...so was very interesting for me.
The story begins by showing the American dream. Henry Ford is building cars and inventing the assembly line. It appears that prosperity is something everyone can achieve and optimism is high. Then, the depression hits. Where people once owned cars for pleasure and convenience, for some, their car may be their only remaining possession.
Charles Howard (Bridges) is a man who started with 21 cents in his pocket and turned it into what most would consider a successful business. He owns a big house and his wife and son seem to be happy. That changes in an instant the day his young son decides to take the car for a spin and ends up being killed in the resulting crash. Howard's wife leaves and he's left behind to rebuild his life.
This is the story of unlikely success and second chances. Howard finds new love when he encounters Marcela (Elizabeth Banks) and eventually remarries. He also decides to invest in a horse. His trainer is Tom Smith (Cooper), who has been written off as crazy by most people. His jockey is Red Pollard (Maguire), who has a temper, a history of losing, and has never been considered good at what he does. Howard spends $2,000 on Seabiscuit. The horse has good breeding, but is undersized, apparently lazy, and not likely to become a winner.
Each of these damaged characters gets a second chance in life. We see Smith training Seabiscuit. The horse is unruly and will only let Pollard ride him. Howard knows nothing about racing, but he's a loyal owner and believes in his team of misfits.
As you can see, there's nothing remarkable about the story so far. But something makes us root for Seabiscuit. The race sequences place the viewer right among the action. It looks and sounds so real that you'll feel as if you are riding one of the horses.
The live action is broken up occasionally with black and white photographs depicting people who grew up in this era. It made me think of people no longer with us. They all had lives, hopes and dreams. You can see some of that optimism in their smiles.
The film is good at a making you reflect on the past. One major story thread involves Howard's attempts to set up a match race with Triple Crown winner War Admiral. People desperately want to see the two meet, but War Admiral's owner is against the idea and doesn't consider the challenge worthy.
The film leaves out a lot of historical details and focuses on a few races rather than Seabiscuit's entire career. As a result, some of the events did not occur exactly as suggested. But it doesn't ruin the story if you watch it without knowing the full history.
I won't reveal any more of the plot. The acting is very good, as you would expect from actors of this quality. Bridges and Cooper are particularly effective. If you avoid films about animals because you don't like to see them get hurt, no horses die at any point. Two suffer injuries, but it's essential to the plot and ends happily.
Seabiscuit captured the nation's imagination in the 1930s and represented hope when people needed it most. The story is inspirational and is one of the best sports films I've seen. Any Oscar hopes were crushed by Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but it was nominated in seven categories.
on July 5, 2004
Astonishingly well thought of popcorn populism flick. I can see why it did so well. It hits its target audiences perfectly. There are 2 target audiences for this movie.
The first is the casual movie goer who sees very few movies and for whom going to a movie is a real treat. These folks go to about one movie a month and usually pick something safe, unchallenging and harmless, like Seabiscuit. They are easily pleased because they have modest standards and see so few movies, they don't really know how good movies can really be. Its a big, pretty movie with lots recognizable faces, confortingly stereotypical characters, canned dialogue and a prepackaged ending. Thus, the viewer goes to work and tells everyone there the movie was fun and good to take kids to and thats all most folks need to get the kids out of the house on a Saturday night.
The second target audience is at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. Movie critics. These guys see so many movies all the time, they have no choice but to boil each movie down to its bare essentials. Is it heartfelt? Is it fun? Is it reasonably well acted? Is the cinematography pretty? Does it deliver the goods? The average movie critic sees a movie once, scribbling notes throughout then its off to type up the review and tomorrow is another movie. They have to have a checklist to know what to look for because they haven't time to analyze ever little bit of it. Most filmmakers aren't stupid. They know what critics are looking for and Seabiscuit is almost a welcome relief to critics. It basically does their job for them. The critics write positive reviews and everyone gets what they want.
on June 19, 2004
Gary Ross' SEABISCUIT is more than just a tale of a horse. The movie is the story of three men who have lost much and gain much more through this determined horse.
Tobey Maguire, excellent as Red Pollard, has lost his family, eyesight in one eye, and eventually he is nearly crippled in a tragic accident. His indomitable spirit, however, is recaptured by riding and loving Seabiscuit.
Jeff Bridges, outstanding as Howard, lost his son to a tragic auto accident, eventually his wife, and a lot of money during the great crash. He marries a lovely girl (played quite well by Elizabeth Banks) and through Red and Seabiscuit, he too regains a life.
The excellent Chris Cooper is a cowboy who has lost his land....we see him touching a barbwired fence which imprisons what was once a cowboy's land. His gentleness and his knowledge of horses catapults him into the spotlight, and he too regains his dignity.
The whole cast and the expert direction of Gary Ross gives SEABISCUIT a dramatic and entertaining lift; William H. Macy as Ticktock, the radio deejay, is fabulous and adds a lot of humor to his role.
on June 10, 2004
Most films that try to capture the significance of a sporting event from a by-gone era suffer because they fail to attach it to any historical context. (Billy Crystal's "'61*" being a perfect example, and the recent "Miracle" being the exception.) In fact, that's why there have been so few films that try to tackle a great sporting event. This better-than-average movie, SEABISCUIT, wisely spends sufficent time discussing the American psyche during the Great Depression (and wisely employed the sagacious historian David McCullough to narrate this exposition). Once the scene is set, once we know that the nation is desperate for a rags-to-riches hero, the action of this movie can take place appropriately.
As a film, there is a good deal to recommend it. The pacing is swift and sets are very convincing. The cast is for the most part flawless. Tobey Maguire, who gets better with every performance, conveys the pathos of a young man who is forced to be separated from his parent, only to become the wildly erratic jockey and stable-boy, Red Pollard. The always underrated and understated Chris Cooper plays the near-mystical trainer, Tom Smith. Jeff Bridges turns in his standard strong performance as owner Charles Howard. William Macy as fictitious horse racing announcer Tick-Tock provides welcome comic relief. The situations and the interactions among the characters hold this movie together very well.
What prevents me from giving this movie a perfect five is director/writer Gary Ross' really over-the-top moments where he couldn't resist some Hollywood stylizations. For example, when Chris Cooper stands in a particularly run-down stable, he sees (a) Seabiscuit being tortured and abused on one side of him and (b) jockey Red Pollard being picked on and harrassed on the other side of him. In case you didn't make the connection, Ross shows Cooper looking again at Seabiscuit and then at Pollard. You can almost see a cartoonish light bulb going on over his head, "Say! Why doesn't this down-on-his-luck, belligerent jockey ride this down-on-his-luck belligerent horse? Duh!" Later, Seabiscuit, who is being ridden by another jockey, pulls up lame during a race, and nearly breaks down. Miles away, kindred spirit Red Pollard inexplicably feels a terrible sharp pain in his shin! Is this the Corsican brothers? Or do I sense Spielberg behind the scenes going, "Hey, remember how Eliot got ill when E.T. got ill? Might work here!" I dunno. These moments happened a little too often. Not enought for me to dislike the film, but enough to prevent Seabiscuit going wire to wire.
on June 4, 2004
This tale of a down-on-his-luck horse and his down-on-his-luck jockey was one of the most moving films of 2003.
I had been somewhat biased against seeing this movie due to the less than stellar marketing - namely TV spots that mostly showed Tobey Maguire in his whinier moments. Eventually, however, I decided that all the positive comments that this film had recieved warrented that I go see it.
I was completely blown away. The film managed to make you completely sympathetic to Seabiscuit as a character without all the cheesy ploys a lesser director would have used to try to humanize the horse.
Chris Cooper as the eccentric but brilliant trainer, Tom Smith, proves yet again his prowess as an actor, previously seen in his role in American Beauty.
Jeff Bridges as Charles Howard is funny, in mourning, strong, and hurt, all at the same time.
And, despite my comments earlier about the whiny moments that are featured in the television commercials, Tobey Maguire as Red Pollard is brilliant. He displays a wonderful combination of tough, yet vulnerable that would seem cliched on a lesser actor. And if it's possible for an actor to have chemistry with a horse, Maguire displayed that with the horse playing Seabiscuit in this film.
The context in which the main drama of the film itself is placed is as much a part of the story as all the races that are shown. Depictions of the Great Depression, from ones made especially for this film to archival footage that is used, add greatly to the film. And the scene in which you see various households around the country listening to the race on their radios, rather than seeing most of the race istself, is one of the most memorable sequences in the film.
Of course, the races manage to be completely compelling and suspenseful, despite the fact that, since this is history, you already know the outcome.
This film was amazing, and if it had been produced in a year that wasn't dominated by the third installment of the Lord of the Rings, it would have been a serious contender for many Oscars.
on May 17, 2004
Saw the movie first [by the way, the DVD bonus features, "Racing through History" and "Bringing Seabiscuit to the Screen" are excellent, worthy of your attention] and then read the book. The book was a real page-turner, inspite of the fact that most of what's in there is in the movie. Thoroughly enjoyed both renditions of the wonderful story of Seabiscuit. The only complaint I would make about the film is that I didn't feel Tobey Macguire was really right for the role of Red Pollard. The real Red was more physically fragile, yet a great daredevil, with a kind heart and a mischevous nature. Also, he was, I guess you could say, excitingly average. He wasn't a great rider, he was a fairly bad boxer, but the sunshine in his life was Seabiscuit-- his bond with the horse is what lifted him to another plane. Tobey Macguire captures the pain of Red's life very well, and tortured quality of his emotions, the repeated failures both public and private, but there's no way you can make Tobey Maguire a kind of average Everyman. He's young and handsome and vigorous, and a very good actor [no bad thing] but he isn't Red Pollard. Particular kudos for acting go to Chris Cooper, Jeff Bridges, Elizabeth Banks and William H. Macy, who are [as always] wonderful and a pleasure to watch. Even Gary Stevens [George "Iceman" Woolf], who is actually a top jockey in real life, does a highly creditable job in his first trip in front of a camera. He even had me going for a while [is he an actor or isn't he?] and I'm not easy to fool. The fact that acting isn't his day job in no way detracts from the film....if anything, it lends a verisimilitude that would have been a bit lacking without a touch of "the real deal." All in all, well worth your time, and this one's a keeper.