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Hidalgo /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Zuleikha Robinson, Louise Lombard, Said Taghmaoui Directed by: Joe Johnston

Produced by: Casey Silver
Written by: John Fusco
Distributor: Touchtone Pictures


     Hundreds of horses race across the Arabian Desert in perilous situations. Plots are created in attempts to move ahead in the race, even when death may be the result. Quicksand, lack of water, and sandstorms are all fatal factors in the prestigious competition. However, the winnerís purse is not the reason for the contestants entering. Theyíre racing solely because of the titleóthe best endurance horse in the entire world. It is believed that it is their destiny, chosen by Allah.

     Typically, only middle-easterners enter the race, alongside their pure-bread Arabian stallions and mares. However, when drunkard American infidel Frank Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) claims that he and his mustang, Hidalgo, are the best endurance team on the planet, he is forcefully invited to join the competition. In the eyes of the Arabs, the two must prove themselves, because of their self-proclaimed title. In the eyes of Hopkins, theyíre in it, simply because of the money.

     This is all supposedly based on true events, and while unrealistic, I bought into it for awhile. The entire setup sounded great to me, and from the beginning of the film, I was hooked. The photography was brilliant, the story myth-like; I almost felt like I was watching Lawrence of Arabia, made for the new generation. The running-length was said to be two-hours and ten-minutes. Based on the first quarter of it, I was ready to experience the entire picture, with a glorious grin on my face. Little did I know then, things were about to become a lot worse.

     About one hour into the movie, a sequence of mindless subplots begins, ultimately leading Hidalgo down the path of failure. Take, for instance, when Hopkins is mistakenly caught romancing a woman, who, based on the results of the race, could become the fifth wife of the mighty Saudi Arabian prince. Only wanting to rest for the night at a designated stop, Hopkins finds heís gotten himself into more than he originally bargained for. Moments later, the possible princess is captured by an opposing force. In order to save himself from castration, imposed by her father, Hopkins must re-capture her. I was either truly in pain or this incidence lasted for an entire half an hour; itís not even really all that crucial to the plot. There are many more happenings of this nature in Hidalgo, but Iíll spare you from reading my rants on their awfulness in this review. Why couldnít the movie simply be about old-style horse-racing? Too many mainstream releases these days feel as though they need massive extra-baggage to prove themselves to viewers when they do not. Simplicity works wonders, and can be well-respected

     Towards the very end of Hidalgo, the style of its execution only evolves into something worse than it was before. Director Joe Johnston has made some masterful family films in the past, such as Jumanji and October Sky, but his work here is simply ludicrous. Whether heís trying to mock the Arabia that David Lean created over forty years ago is debatable, but itís clear that his efforts are disgraceful. During the final stretch of film, Johnston tries to bring about some sort of artsy-fartsy feeling to Hidalgo, but there is no symbolism behind it. Things happen without any reason and the audience is left wondering why. Thankfully, as the movie stomps into its predictable conclusion, theatre-patrons will finally able to take a breath and reflect upon what theyíve witnessed. How could such a wonderful start result in excruciating agony?

     The entire experience that Hidalgo has to offer is superficial. Sometimes, this can work to a pictureís advantage, but here, it, unquestionably, does not. Sitting in the theatre, I awaited seeing a Target-storeís tag pop out from underneath the sleeve of one of the costumes. The music may be on queue and the Arabian Desert may look like a vast and isolated place. I, just, have come to expect more than music playing amidst vast, isolated places when I go to the movies. I guess Iím just crazy. I must be, right?

-Danny, Bucket Reviews

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