SEABISCUIT, a story about a horse that's too small, a jockey that's too
tall, a trainer that's too old and an owner that's too stupid to know he's
attempting the impossible, is a movie that's too long and too sappy, but it
manages to be fine entertainment nonetheless.
As it builds to "the race of the century," when little Seabiscuit challenges
the undefeated War Admiral, a battleship-sized, coal-black horse with the
speed of a locomotive, the movie cuts frequently to newsreel footage as the
country is fighting its battle against the Great Depression. Lest we miss
the symbolism, the script is filled with aphorisms such as, "Sometimes, all
somebody needs is a second chance," and "He may have been down, but he's not
out." The struggle of the horse, the jockey, the trainer and the owner are
metaphors for America since they are all been beaten down but get second
chances to succeed. When subtlety would have helped, writer/director Gary
Ross instead uses a meat cleaver to beat the film's messages into our heads.
It's an enjoyable picture in spite of rather than because of Ross's
Jeff Bridges, reprising some of his Preston Tucker character from TUCKER,
plays Charles Howard, a wealthy automotive entrepreneur turned racehorse
owner. He comes back from the death of a son and the dissolution of a
marriage to be the owner of Seabiscuit, a race horse given up on as a loser.
Tobey Maguire plays Red Pollard, a jockey who is blind in one eye after his
failed attempts at prize fighting. Chris Cooper delivers another fine
performance as Tom Smith, the taciturn trainer who had been put out to
pasture before Howard discovers him. Providing some much needed comic
relief, William H. Macy plays Tick Tock McGlaughlin, a cheesy radio
announcer who provides his audiences with inside racing scoops, while doing
his own silly sound effects.
Predictable but satisfying, the movie builds to the big race and then beyond
in a long epilogue. Don't be surprised if your audience cheers when
Seabiscuit wins the big one, which is no surprise. The movie's title isn't
WAR ADMIRAL. If you like your movies with extra sugar, then Gary Ross has
made the film for you. And, even if you have a problem with maudlin movies,
you'll still probably like this Capraesque film, especially all of the
minutia of the racing strategy, which turns out to be the best part.
SEABISCUIT runs 2:20. It is rated PG-13 for "some sexual situations and
violent sports-related images" and would be acceptable for kids around 9 and
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes