Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.
Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris
'Seabiscuit' gallops to a critical win
By BILLY NORRIS
Published July 28, 2003
Tobey Maguire plays jockey Johnny Red Pollard in Seabiscuit.
Summary: Johnny "Red" Pollard (Tobey Maguire) is a young man with a knack for riding horses. During the Great Depression of the 1930s (Red's early teen years), his financially strapped parents leave him in the custody of a well-off stable owner. This, we come to find out, permanently damages his spirit. Later in life, he is doing anything for money; that includes racing and prizefighting in Mexico (which leaves him half blind) for a few extra cents here and there. He eventually crosses paths with a millionaire horse-rancher named Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), a cowboy by the name of Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) with a gift for training wild horses, and an undersize, seemingly useless horse with what turns out to be a lot of potential. They set out to turn the troubled animal into a truly great racing horse.
My view: This film is based on a best-selling book by Laura Hillenbrand, which is based on a true story. The story was extremely well told, with narrated segments and black and white photos used to reflect the time period. The plot flowed seamlessly from one segment to the next, effortlessly intertwining each character's story. Great casting resulted in a well-matched ensemble. Each cast member complemented the others.
The actors were fully immersed in the era's aura, as well, and they created quite an accurate representation of the time. I was particularly fond of Cooper's character (the horse trainer); there was a lot of depth in his personality. William H. Macy's character, the race announcer, was created to provide comic relief in the film, something he achieved. He had the spunk and charisma of a high-energy auctioneer, using numerous percussion instruments and other humorous sound effects to accentuate his broadcasts. He is a character in every sense of the word.
The parallels between Red and Seabiscuit were amazing - their troubled beginnings, their physical woes. Maguire even replicated nuances of the horse's personality, which further connected Pollard and Seabiscuit.
Not familiar with the story, I was anticipating a rather mundane film about horseracing. But, there was much more substance to it than one might imagine. It effectively depicted the American spirit to persevere through thick and thin. This one joins Finding Nemo for my top two picks for best movies this year. Look out Oscar, here comes Seabiscuit.
Recommendations: It's a long film, 140 minutes, but it did not lose me once. It's absolutely captivating. Due to the nature of the film, it will be most thoroughly appreciated by more mature audiences. If you've been holding out for a good one before you spend the dough to go to the theater, this is what you've been waiting for.
- Billy Norris, 15, will be in the 10th grade at Seminole High School, and is a former member of the Times' X-Team.