- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Jan
Writer/director Gary Ross (
But this horse might not reach its stride until its second week, as word-of-mouth takes its course.
All three actors earn applause from critics, many of whom predict that the film could have a shot at an Oscar nomination. Critics in the religious press are fairly impressed as well, posting only a few mild cautions and complaints.
Gerri Pare (Catholic News Service) says the film is "buoyed by nuanced performances," riveting, and handsomely shot. The story, she says, "serves as a metaphor for how the country was able to weather the Depression and survive. It's a very American story about the land of opportunity and second chances."
In spite of these strengths, Pare says the horse loses its natural grace at the end. "Distressingly, the film's climactic race relies more on swelling music than thrilling visuals."
J. Robert Parks (The Phantom Tollbooth) agrees: "It stumbles a bit near the finish line, when it becomes overly sentimental and anticlimactic. [But]
Steven Greydanus (Decent Films) says, "While not great moviemaking,
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) raves, "While the acting of this fine cast is commendable, it by no means steals focus from the reason to see the film. The star of this film is, and always has been, the story itself. If you or any member of your family is unfamiliar with the Seabiscuit saga, I urge you to see this movie."
Running the other way, Movieguide's critic says, "The good feelings generated by the movie's moral, redemptive, and patriotic worldview are spoiled by foul language, sexual content, and a brief socialist element or two."
While she cautions parents not to take their younger children, Holly McClure (Crosswalk) says, "It's always good for the soul to see a true story about perseverance, overcoming the odds, and being renewed with a little hope and love." But she too is upset that the filmmakers included foul language: "Why screenwriters think that cursing God and Jesus numerous times throughout a movie would add anything to the story is insulting."
Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) is pleased to see audiences cheering "a film of substance during a summer movie season dominated by sequels, explosions, special effects and bathroom humor." He joins the chorus of complaint, however, faulting it for showing characters drinking alcohol and spending time at a brothel. Perhaps this true story would have made a better film if it had been less realistic.
Strangely, those critics upset about the language and the brothel scene register little or no complaint about the ethical indiscretion at the center of the film. Mainstream critic Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) picks up on that: "If
David Denby (New Yorker) calls the film "effective and satisfying—both realistic and poetic, and always vivid emotionally." But he frowns at "an element of Oscar-grabbing opportunism and bullying…. When a director exploits our hardwired responses to pathos, he fails, so to speak, a test of honor. For all his skill and tact, Gary Ross often fails in that way. At its worst, the triumphalism of
Steve Salier (UPI) is harsher on the film. "
D.J. Williams (Christian Spotlight) calls
Roger Thomas (EthicsDaily) testifies, "It has been a long time since I have seen a film audience burst into applause, yet this happened not once but twice in my screening of
Darrell Manson (Hollywood Jesus) writes, "Tobey Maquire's voice over at the end of the film says that
Other religious press film critics are catching up with
Brett Younger looks at the message of