(Side note: I’ve had this in my drafts for about a week or two haha)
I was talking about the upcoming Hunger Games film with a friend recently and talking about how I was really happy that Gary Ross won out as director from the short list of people they had lined up to direct. While Ross hasn’t done action before, I thought that he did a great job in bringing out the themes of Pleasantville. There’s a lot of great social commentary and moral grey areas in The Hunger Games, so I thought Ross was the best man for the job.
I’ve had Seabiscuit sitting on my shelf stacked with DVD’s for quite some time now and thought, “Hey! Gary Ross directed that, might as well check it out before The Hunger Games comes out.” Yeah… bad idea…
I thought Seabiscuit was thoroughly mediocre and at many times absolutely terrible. The characters are poor archetypes at best. Name one adjective about Elizabeth Banks’s character that doesn’t have to do with her looks… you can’t! Because there’s nothing there! Jeff Bridges had the only character they could have conceivably done something interesting with in terms of his tragic past and the reversal of opinion on engineering and the future, but nooooooo, we can’t have that! Instead we’ll just make him extremely nice for the remainder of the film.
A lot of the scenes were flat out ridiculous, and this is coming from a guy who had no problems with War Horse. I suppose the difference is that Seabiscuit is supposed to be a biopic and true to life, whereas I always saw War Horse as more so a fairy tale straight out of a children’s book. If it wasn’t for the second half of Seabiscuit, this would seriously be one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.
There are so many terribly done and unsubtle scenes with parallels and callbacks that are supposed to make you go “ohhhhhh.” The scene where Chris Cooper decides to pair up Seabiscuit with Red is absolutely atrocious. We see Seabiscuit unable to be tamed by the men, Cooper looks at Tobey Maguire fighting off about 4 or 5 guys, cut back to Cooper looking at Seabiscuit, cut to Cooper looking at Maguire, cut back to Seabiscuit one more time, cut back to Tobey Maguire, and then it’s like Cooper goes “I’ll put these two wild things together! I’M A GENIUS!” *facepalm*. And there’s another like 5 minute segment where we get a flashback to Seabiscuit’s past with tedious voice over narration that seriously made me laugh out loud.
Admittedly the film does pick up a bit in the second half but the movie is just so unengaging. Why am I supposed to care about these people or this horse? They spell it out for you but that doesn’t make me CARE about Seabiscuit. And the movie constantly refers to Seabiscuit as an underdog, but we never really see how he’s outmatched by other “better” horses with more advantageous characteristics.
I am honestly APALLED that this film was nominate for Best Picture at the Oscars in 2003. Admittedly, it wasn’t am AMAZING year for film, but it was still a year that included In America, Matchstick Men, Kill Bill Vol. 1, 21 Grams, and Big Fish. Hell, nominate Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl for all I care, but Seabiscuit? What the hell is going on???