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2004 - PG-13 - 115 Mins.
Director: Joe Johnston
Producer: Casey Silver
Written By: John Fusco
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Timothy Dalton, Louise Lombard
Review by: Joe Rickey

Hollywood studios often commit millions upon millions to films; that certainly is a well-known fact. Sometimes they take big gambles that end up paying off big time (See Titanic, reportedly a 200 million dollar budget, grossed 1 billion worldwide). Then there are other times one is left scratching their head as to why a film cost so much and why anyone in their right mind would green light such an obviously horrid script. Gigli cost 54 million, made about 1/10 that amount in theatres. Now Hidalgo comes along. It is the first post Lord of the Rings film for Viggo Mortensen, after being long-delayed I am sure in order take advantage of just that fact. It carries an astronomical budget of 90 million U.S. Is the financial gamble taken by Disney going to be worth it?

Frank T. Hopkins is what one would consider a dyed-in-the-wool American cowboy through and through. He has adapted the lifestyle in every facet of his life. He also is a performer of sorts. He is employed in a Wild West show where he reenacts events from the Civil War along with his horse named, you guessed it, Hidalgo. Lately, he has tired of this lifestyle so he jumps at the chance to join in a race called “The Ocean of Fire.” It is a 3,000-mile race across the Arabian Desert with a lucrative cash prize as the final reward. He soon finds himself in over his head when the competition repeatedly tries to kill him before and during the race. Joe Johnston, known for such films as Jumanji and Jurassic Park 3, directs Hidalgo.

The feel good triumph over great odds sub-genre of film is really in vogue right now with Disney. They just released Miracle almost a month ago today and now their Touchstone Pictures label is releasing Hidalgo, which is in the same mold as that film despite the inherent differences. Maybe a better comparison would be Seabiscuit. In which case this could aptly be titled Seabiscuit in the Desert or something along those lines. Heck, like that film, the rider of the horse is an alcoholic. Another similarity between the films is that they both run too long for their own good.

Hidalgo could have made an entertaining old-fashioned action-adventure at less than 110 minutes. It certainly has some stunning sequences buoyed by great cinematography. Some of the action sequences rival those seen in the Indiana Jones series of films. Couple that with a mostly subdued but nonetheless effective lead performance by Mortensen and you seem to have the right ingredients for a successful film, right? Not in this case.

You see, director Johnston seems to be absolutely in love with hammering every little sequence of the film into the viewer until one has long ago lost their patience. He dwells on the inconsequential details that simply do not matter to the audience. He kept Jurassic Park 3 moving quickly, why not this film, which desperately needed some post-production trimming. As it is, the film is downright boring. It lumbers from scene to scene until its inevitable conclusion.

Overall, Hidalgo = Dullsville.

Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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