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
A long, rough ride
By BILLY NORRIS
Published March 8, 2004
American distance rider Frank T. Hopkins, played by Viggo Mortensen, and his horse, Hidalgo, face many strange events including a sandstorm as they compete in a 3,000-mile race across the Arabian desert in Hidalgo.
Summary: Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) is a courier for the U.S. cavalry in the late 1800s who is known throughout the West for his talent as a cross-country horse racer. In fact, with the help of his trusty horse, Hidalgo, he has never lost a race. Born to a Sioux Indian mother and an American military father, Hopkins is a loner who doesn't fit in completely with either group, though his sympathies lie more with the Indians. Hidalgo is somewhat of an outcast as well because he is a mustang, a breed thought to be less than worthy of racing against thoroughbreds. The two seem to be past their prime and have settled for performing daily in a traveling Wild West road show. But Frank soon receives an invitation to participate in the Ocean of Fire race - a 3,000-mile trek across the treacherous Arabian desert, pitted against the fiercest competitors he could dream of. He accepts the challenge, and the race proves to be the truest test of endurance, spirit and willpower that he or Hidalgo has ever faced.
My view: The movie, inspired by the life and legend of Hopkins, left me wondering how much was "Hollywoodized." The telling of the story is very theatrical and seemingly overdramatized. The action is choppy, and it never really flows as it should. At some points, I felt like an audience member at a Wild West stunt show in an amusement park. The movie's unnecessarily lengthy run time (133 minutes) could have been trimmed if the filmmakers had cut the lackluster scenes in which Hopkins and Hidalgo, tired and thirsty, trek across boring white sand. On the brighter side, it was nice to see Mortensen in a different role. After three years of seeing him as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it is a pleasant surprise to view him acting so well in another setting.
Recommendations: The PG-13 rating comes from adventure violence and mild innuendo. This film could have passed for a PG in my book, but as a PG-13 it is very subdued, especially in comparison to the questionable films being released in that rating category these days. As for seeing this one, it falls comfortably into the "save it for a rainy day" category. It's a good story, but nothing really blew me away. Seabiscuit filled my appetite for horse movies.
- Billy Norris, 16, is in the 10th grade at Seminole High and is a former member of the Times X-Team.