During the Depression of the '30s, an equine scrapper called Seabiscuit captured the imagination of an embattled American public with a series of big-hearted victories. If a nag virtually destined for the scrapheap had achieved all this, couldn't the nation slog its way through its difficulties? That's the notion propounded by this lushly picturesque adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand's non-fiction US bestseller. Buried underneath this monument to wholesome, all-American self-mythologising is a classy horse-racing picture in the classic mould. Maguire does creditably in an ill-fitting part as the aggressive jockey guiding Seabiscuit to greatness, Bridges mixes jauntiness and sobriety as the steed's businessman owner bouncing back from personal tragedy, while wise, taciturn trainer Cooper and Macy's madcap radio commentator contend a photo-finish in the scene-stealing stakes. All good stuff, as indeed are the treacle-rich Randy Newman score and vividly persuasive racetrack highlights. But it's hard to feel that appreciative when the lightness of touch Ross displayed in Pleasantville has stiffened into such lumbering worthiness. For a film about an unfancied underdog, Seabiscuit is just far too pleased with itself.
Cast and crew
William H Macy