Saturday, August 09, 2003

Seabiscuit (IMDB) (Netflix)
In 1938, the president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, got fewer newspaper column-inches of coverage than a racehorse. This abused, stumpy, failure of an animal had met up with three similarly damaged humans and became the focal point for the aspirations of a Depression-battered wish-they-were-working class. Based on the best-seller by Laura Hillenbrand and featuring Jeff Bridges as the owner, Chris Cooper as the trainer and Tobey Maguire as the over-sized jockey, with historian David McCullough providing the larger period context through an occasional voiceover.

It all adds up to the most noble of schmaltz that overtly lays out its themes, but with so much skill that even a cynic's defenses eventually fall away. The race scenes are nearly the same caliber as the boxing scenes in Raging Bull, and the lead performances are first class. A nice surprise was that the much-previewed match race with War Admiral isn't the film's climax, or maybe it is, with a long epilogue that's just as solid. Unfortunately, a tad too much harsh language and frisky behavior for the kids.