Seabiscuit Movie ReviewReviewed by Jeffrey Rolo
Americans love a homegrown sports legend, whether it is a famous baseball slugger like Babe Ruth or a prized racehorse like Seabiscuit. These larger than life legends inspire us, for they represent the best qualities of America: hard work, determination, fortitude, heroism and ultimately defeating seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve sweet victory.
Seabiscuit and his jockey Red Pollard (played by Tobey Maguire) were both extreme underdogs that developed a special bond with each other and managed to overcome personal hurdles to achieve the impossible. Charles Howard (played by Jeff Bridges) was the owner who, with advice from his horse trainer Tom Smith (played by Chris Cooper), decided to take a gamble with the unimpressive horse and the broken jockey… a gamble that paid off and entered the annals of history forever.
Sometimes it can be difficult to capture the true essence of a legend's heroism without lending almost mythical abilities to the characters or dragging the story out so long that the viewer's patience is tested. I'm glad to say Seabiscuit avoided both potential pitfalls; it is an amazing character-study into the lives of some normal individuals who banded together and became larger than life. It never actually exaggerates the abilities of these legends, nor does it inadvertently travel down the path of drudgery.
Exciting races are par for the course for such a movie, and director Gary Ross films them wonderfully, lending us a bird's eye view into the adrenaline-pumping exhibitions. But such races are not all this movie is about, for at its foundation Seabiscuit is a look at the spiritually wounded individuals who eventually overcome their personal demons. It's a family film that will capture the hearts of almost any viewer, thanks in large part to the outstanding performances by some very gifted actors.
Tobey Maguire is an outstanding actor who flew under the radar of most movie fans until his breakout performance in Spiderman. Here too he convincingly plays the role of Pollard, a physically handicapped jockey. Jeff Bridges is one of the most respected actors in the business, and his performance in this movie will only further enhance his credentials. Academy Award winner Chris Cooper is one of Hollywood's best-kept secrets, and here he masterfully plays the role of a horse trainer dispirited by the changing world.
Although Maguire, Bridges and Cooper are the main characters throughout the film, by no means does the supporting actors let us down. Gary Stevens, a Hall of Fame jockey, played the role of jockey George "The Iceman" Woolf convincingly and charismatically. William Macy was an absolute scene-stealer with his amusing performance as Tick Tock McGlaughlin, a frenzied sports announcer that reports on the career of Seabiscuit and his team.
If a criticism had to be found about this movie it might be that the true lifestyle of a jockey in the Depression-era isn't truly represented here. We certainly see that Pollard's life was not a pleasant one by any means, but we don't quite grasp the true adversity and hard living conditions he and other jockeys like him suffered. While this may be a fault to some, I don't mind that the movie just touched upon such elements lightly, for it leaves us with a film that gives us a relatively accurate picture of the legendary Seabiscuit while still remaining a movie perfectly suited to all members of the family.
Whether you're a racing fan, a horse fan or simply a movie lover, you owe it to yourself to experience the legend of Seabiscuit through this thoroughly enjoyable film.