Starring: Tobey Maguire, Chris Cooper, Jeff Bridges
Director: Gary Ross
Everyone is running to their nearest theater to check out "Seabiscuit," this summer's feel-good movie of the year about a racehorse that inspires America through the Depression. While the film can be stirring on one level, its overall effectiveness nonetheless falls short of its considerable potential.
The story of the horse that won the hearts of America is the center of three much more important stories, namely those of the men that brought the racehorse to fame. Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) is a successful Buick salesman when the stock market suddenly crashes and an economical meltdown ensues. After a divorce from his wife following a horrible accident involving their son, Howard is comforted by his friends down in Mexico, where he soon develops an interest in horseracing.
Soon enough, Howard enlists the help of Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), a veteran horse trainer whose naturalistic ways aid in molding Seabiscuit into a champion. Because most of the small jockeys are terrified of the equally small but powerful horse, Smith recruits Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), a much bigger but talented jockey with a lackluster track record in the eyes of his sponsors.
The stories of these three men are the real gems of the film, but director Gary Ross tragically neglects them and instead centers on his four-legged co-star for this inspirational tale, a mistake that produces two hours of mostly boredom splashed with some exciting footage of Seabiscuit's races. Both Maguire and Cooper portray their respective characters so well that we're left wanting to learn a little more about them rather than the horse. Instead, Maguire's character stands in Seabiscuit's prominent shadow while Cooper is given little to do.
"Seabiscuit" should have been a great movie, if only it were made right. Ross wrings emotion from his audience scene after scene and his editing is so choppy that the long runtime leaves you in a state of confusion, frequently dealing with the story's serious moments for only a few seconds at a time. Most people will probably enjoy this film, and there honestly is no reason not to. The actors are all well placed in their roles, the story is strong for the most part, and the action that does take place is a mesmerizing. Unfortunately, the director doesn't create a picture we all can relate to and instead forces us to look upon this horse as a hero when Red Pollard and Tom Smith are the real heroes of the film.