Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Zuleikha Robinson, Omar Sharif, Louise
Lombard, Adam Alexi-Malle, Said Taghmaoui, Silas Carson
Touchstone Pictures has done an odd thing with the film Hidalgo:
It’s proven that even formulas can be fun. Despite its
cookie-cutter set-up and sometimes trite dialogue (it’s
pretty much The Mighty Ducks with a couple of sand
dunes), the film is still so enjoyable that even I—the
poorest of the poor—wouldn’t mind digging into
my wallet to see it. Hidalgo is based on the life of
Frank T. Hopkins (Mortensen), allegedly the
greatest endurance rider in the world. Hopkins was reputed
to have won more than 400 long-distance races during his life,
including a 3,000-mile trek across the Arabian Desert. In
Touchstone’s version of that legendary race, here called
the “Ocean of Fire,” Hopkins enters both to reclaim
his former glory and to flee from his past. Oh yeah, and because
there’s this petty little dispute over who really owns
the greatest long-distance horse in the world. Sheikh Riyadh
(Sharif) doesn’t take too kindly to Hopkins claiming
the title for his horse Hidalgo and thus challenges him in
the form of the ominous race. Sharing issues, much?
In the “Ocean of Fire,” Hopkins and his mixed-blooded
mustang compete against Arabia’s finest purebreds for
a substantial money prize. We soon learn that many other side-wagers
have been proposed as well, adding further incentive for victory.
Lady Anne Davenport (Lombard) stands to gain breeding
rights to the Sheikh’s racing stallion while Prince
Bin Al Reeh (Taghmaoui) hopes to win breeding rights
to the Sheikh’s daughter. Of course, just-as-good-as-any-man
Princess Jazira (Robinson) has her own plans, which
apparently include early Middle Eastern feminism (jumping
straight to the top, by the way, on my Greatest Oxymorons
list). Furthermore (cuz what’s just one more little
point of contention?), Sheikh Riyadh’s greedy nephew
Katib (Carson) also expects full access to the family’s
sacred horse bloodlines despite being an out-and-out thief.
Sheesh, talk about a sense of entitlement—my parents
got me a goldfish when I asked for a pony, and I was
grateful for that!
Being a sucker for period pieces, I’ve got to give
props to all the artistic costume and design sets. Despite
its Disney roots, Hidalgo comes off much more Lawrence
Of Arabia than Aladdin, juxtaposing the delicate
against the deadly in its presentation of the Arabian Desert.
This duality of nature also appears within the movie’s
characters, who constantly waver between the two pillars of
duty and desire. It really is the perfect film to write a
thesis on—so many metaphors! Don’t get too caught
up in the symbolism though, or you might end up a dusty English
major like myself. Instead, focus on Hidalgo’s
enjoyability-factor, which ranks right below Finding Nemo
and right above 50 First Dates. It’s the perfect
outlet for that Spring Break boredom or spending time with
the fam—or curing the boredom caused by spending
time with the fam.
This is the first movie I’ve seen in a while that was
actually fun to watch rather than just fun to belittle. While
there were definitely a few lines that grated on my ears—at
one point Jazira says sadly, “Why do I feel you are
the only one who sees me?” and Hopkins replies, “Well
any man can see that you’re beautiful”—the
overall package was quite two-thumbs-up. One piece of advice,
though: Go with the small beverage.
— Emily Younger
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...