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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Hidalgo

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif
Director: Joe Johnston
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 135 Minutes
Release Date: March 2004
Genres: Action, Drama

*Also starring: Zuleikha Robinson, Adoni Maropis, Adam Alexi-Malle, Louise Lombard, Beverly Graham, Marshall Manesh, Malcolm McDowell, Frank Collison, Said Taghmaoui, Elizabeth Berridge, Joseph J. Dawson

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

Rarely has a horse race movie been so lethargic. HIDALGO is certainly no SEABISCUIT. In bad need of more racing and less talking, the movie will have you passing the time musing on what the real story was like, since HIDALGO was inspired by a true story. One suspects that the story's hero, a half-white and half-Indian rider named Frank T. Hopkins, probably didn't have Errol Flynn's fighting skills and that his horse Hidalgo probably wasn't able to rise from near death and start sprinting at full speed through the desert heat. But, if you ignore the script's many implausibilities, it is sometimes fun watching Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn from THE LORD OF THE RINGS) cracking wry one-liners ("Back home we toss a horseshoe in the pot, and, if it stands up, the coffee is ready.") and being an invincible fighter and rider.

Set in the late 1800s, the story involves a famous horse race across the Arabian Desert -- three-thousand miles in all. Think they'll still end up in a near photo finish? Forty riders die in it every year. Frank is asked to bring his little mustang to race with the big horses after Buffalo Bill advertises Hidalgo and Frank as being the best long-distance horse and rider in the entire world. With long stretches without food or water and with the contestants cheating with murderous intent, the race is an endurance contest that makes the word "race" a misnomer. Most of the time the horse and rider move at no more than a walking speed.

Mortensen is good, as is Omar Sharif, who plays Sheikh Riyadh. (Veteran actor Sharif is much better in MONSIEUR IBRAHIM, which gets its U.S. release on the same date as HIDALGO.) But the script by John Fusco (SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON) shows that he was more interested in the intrigue back at camp than in the race itself. Typical of these episodes is an incident in which one of Sheikh's daughters is caught speaking to Frank in his tent, so punishment is in order. The question isn't what will it be but how Frank will get out of it. In this two-and-a-quarter hour film, the race doesn't even start until almost an hour has passed.

This much can be said of HIDALGO. It does end well, even if rather unbelievably.

HIDALGO runs a long 2:13. The film is in Arabic with English subtitles and in English. It is rated PG-13 for "adventure violence and some mild innuendo" and would be acceptable for kids old enough to be able to read subtitles.

Copyright 2004 Steve Rhodes

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