Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Hidalgo (IMDB) (Netflix)
Viggo Mortenson has a new horse to ride, as yet another post-Civil War soldier ravaged by guilt about the treatment of Native Americans, and therefore driven to drink (the Last Samurai had the same backstory for Tom Cruise). At this rate of expiation by cinema, Hollywood might make things right by, say, next month. OK, maybe not.

He finds some sense of purpose in a 3,000 mile race across the searing deserts of what now are Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria. Unfortunately the movie seems shot in real time, and that’s a lot of sand to cover. The story lacks pace, and most of its many beats (self-loathing, lack of identity, redemption, forbidden love and women’s lib are just few) are struck ham-handedly and with little impact. Nice surprises are Omar Sharif as the “sheik of sheiks” and father to the tomboy princess who just can’t keep that veil on, and the horse has a few nice “takes.” They go to that well far too often, however, and by the end even the horse seems like he’s mugging for the camera.

This will likely work for the 12 year olds in the house, or adults who want some regression therapy.