The storyline for “Seabiscuit” is a pretty obvious one, especially after one sees the trailer or commercials for the film. In case you missed those…
A beat down business man (Bridges) buys a beat down race horse (Seabiscuit) and hires a beat down jockey (Maguire) to ride him. He also hires a beat down trainer (Cooper) to train the horse. However, that simple synopsis is grafted beautifully onto the Depression Era backdrop of the film.
What “Seabiscuit” does so well is it joins America’s hard luck story with the story of the little race horse who could. While the film does get a tad heavy handed with the constant comparisons between the horse and downtrodden America, writer and director Gary Ross very deftly aligns several different happenings within the film in a similar fashion.
The parallels between Bridges, Cooper and Maguire’s characters line up smoothly and in a very touching, yet not unabashedly sentimental fashion. Ross (and editor William Goldenberg) also intertwine documentary footage, terrific sound and several key visuals perfectly together. The key to “Seabiscuit” working, as it does, is the balanced attack. At once honest and yet sentimental, quiet and then thundering, heroic and then painfully truthful, “Seabiscuit” clicks.
Another nice touch is the addition of narrator David McCullough who’s immediately identifiable voice (I think the guy has narrated almost every film that James Earl Jones hasn’t) gives an authenticity to a film and makes is seem real. Yes, “Seabiscuit” is based on a true story, but it still seems like a Hollywood fairy tale. McCullough lends a touch of authenticity.
Chris Cooper continues to be the actor that’s so good in everything, you forget what he’s been in. He blends into his roles so well, he’s like a celluloid chameleon. William H. Macy adds some nice comic relief as a half sauced radio host. His performance keeps the film from becoming too Capra-esque. Plus, laughter opens up the emotions and allows one to cry, or shake their head in cynical disapproval.
Is “Seabiscuit” sappy? Yeah, kind of. But who cares! It’s kind of cool when the big dude next to you is tearing up in a movie. But “Seabiscuit” is more than “Rocky” on a horse track. It’s a moving story about people and how their lives intersect at just the right time. It’s also a simple story about second chances.