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Giddy Up

Nickey Hernandez

Back in the bicentennial year of 1976, moviegoers cheered for a downtrodden fighter named Rocky, who rose from a lowly station and shocked the world in the boxing ring.Today, Americans are far more animalistic than they were in the easy-going 1970s. So why not embrace a four-legged hero galloping to glory on the silver screen?Such is the case with &quotSeabiscuit,&quot a truly brilliant, touching, and inspiring film that chronicles the life and times of a special horse and the three men who molded the little, brown loser into an unlikely champion.In a summer overloaded with forgettable films about cartoons that come to life, man-killing cyborgs and excessive explosions, &quotSeabiscuit&quot is the one true pearl amid a season of swine. For once, superheroes, wisecracking killer cops and tiresome car crashes are nowhere to be seen. Instead, we have the majesty ofa horse that rose from the ashes of the Great Depression and captivated America.The film — which is fairly true to the best-selling book — takes us inside the lives of three special men: a millionaire car dealer, an old school horse whisperer and a long-shot jockey.Alone the three might never have achieved much, but serendipity threw them together after the millionaire, Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) purchased a lame-looking runt of a horse in the 1930s.The horse was an heir to the great Man O War, but at first glance, Seabiscuit was not his granddaddy’s thoroughbred. He was too small to race. His gait was a disaster and his tempered teetered toward tyranny. But Tom Smith, the Dr. Doolittle of horseflesh, saw something in the misfit.&quotUnlike people, every horse is good for something,&quot Smith says in the film. &quotYou don’t throw an life away just cause it’s banged up a little.&quotIn time, Smith’s uncanny ability to train horses transformed Seabiscuit from nag into the biggest sensation on four legs since Hope and Crosby.&quotSeabiscuit&quot entertains on several levels. First off, nostalgia buffs will enjoy the film style, which employs voice over narration and vintage still photographs of the Depression era. The underdogs among us will enjoy watching the animal rise from Palookaville to the pinnacle of his game.Scenery lovers will go weak over the cinematography. Finally, fans of the acting craft can watch three of today’s better thespians do their stuff without special effects.Chris Cooper, fresh from his Oscar-winning performance in &quotAdaptation,&quot nails it again as the soft-spoken, almost mystical Mr. Smith. Bridges, who has managed to deliver solid performances for 30 years, oozes old-fashioned American optimism as Charles Howard.Up and coming superstar Toby Maguire, who presented strong performances in &quotCider House Rules&quot and &quotThe Wonder Boys&quot holds the reins as Red Pollard, the Ralph Waldo Emerson-quoting jockey who rode the real Seabiscuit to fame.As if that is not enough, killer character actor William H. Macy provides a marvelous pinch of comedy as Tick-Tock McGlaughlin, a frenzied and wacky radio announcer, who fuels Seabiscuit’s fame with his manic news tips about theoat-eating sensation.Don’t bother placing your bets, &quotSeabiscuit&quot is a winner.Until next time, Mr. Hernandez has left the theater to dine of horseflesh.Nickey Hernandez is a former private investigator who is known to use the whip on his fillies.


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