There have been some big movies this year already in terms of box office but this is the first film with real Oscar buzz. Seabiscuit, as everyone must know by now, was a famous race horse of the 1930's who, if you believe the hype in the movie, singlehandedly dragged the United States out of the Depression. As the owner (Jeff Bridges) of the horse aptly describes the plot in the movie, "the horse is too small, the jockey (Tobey McGuire) is too big, the trainer (Chris Cooper) is too old and I'm to stupid to know any better." This movie doesn't get much deeper than this and the plot, even if you don't know it ahead of time, is very predictable.
When Seabiscuit starts, you
may think that you have stumbled into a PBS documentary on the Depression.
It even has David McCullough (The
Civil War, The Way West),
the prototypical PBS narrator, doing the voice over. Seabiscuit starts
very slowly. First, there is some documentary footage of the Depression,
and then a lot of preliminary stuff about the sad lives of Bridges, Cooper
and McGuire before they are brought together by a horse. It's not bad but
if you showed up for this movie expecting to see horse races, you have to
wait awhile. But it's worth waiting for. The races, and there are several,
are all very exciting. There's lots of great photography that makes you feel
like you are in the horse race yourself.
What makes this a very enjoyable movie to watch is the cast. Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper and Tobey McGuire are as likeable a group of actors as I can think of. And they are a joy to watch. Added to this nice mix are William H. Macy, a.k.a. the busiest actor in Hollywood, as a whacky sportscaster, Elizabeth Banks as Bridges' second wife, and real-life jockey Gary Stevens as the iceman George Woolf. Seeing Stevens and McGuire together gives you an idea of how small real jockeys are. Chris Cooper gets to combine his two great loves in life in Seabiscuit. He grew up on a ranch and had to choose between ranching and acting as careers.
We all know from the opening curtain what will happen in Seabiscuit. The only difference from other similar movies is that this happy ending really happened. So there's no point in fighting it. Just sit back and enjoy it.