Hollywood generally attempts to put its best foot forward on Oscar night. The academy traditionally selects as Best Picture a movie that people worked hard on and that will entertain the broadest possible audience. By that definition, Seabiscuit has all the elements of a nominee. Gary Ross has achieved greatness in practically all of the individual areas of production. The sets, the costumes, the lighting and the score have been lovingly crafted. The triumphant story of comebacks -- for a horse, for the characters, and for a country -- should appeal to anyone. The acting is top-notch. As star-crossed jockey Red Pollard, Tobey Maguire proves once again that he is arguably the best actor of his generation. There is a scene where he sees the horse again after both have been injured. He hobbles faster than he should to touch Seabiscuit and it is a fabulous piece of acting -- a perfect synthesis of physical movement, facial expression, and speech that makes the audience believe that this moment is happening to this character for the very first time. Chris Cooper is reliably wise and rugged as the mysterious trainer, and Jeff Bridges finds the perfect notes as both a gifted salesman and a grieving father. Even first time actor and respected jockey Gary Stevens manages to communicate a great deal about his character with very little screen time. While all of the excellent work in front of and behind the camera leads to some smashing entertainment, the film feels just slightly less than the sum of its parts. What it lacks is a sense of a personal stake from the filmmakers. They are making something from their heads and not their hearts, and while that does not diminish the achievement, it does make it something slightly less than art. Seabiscuit is old-fashioned Hollywood entertainment, in the best sense of the phrase.
by Perry Seibert review