Hidalgo (2004) / Adventure-Western
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence and mild innuendo
Running Time: 136 min.
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Zuleikha Robinson, Louise Lombard, Adam Alexi-Malle, Said Taghmaoui, Silas Carson, Harsh Nayyar, J.K. Simmons
Director: Joe Johnston
Screenplay: John Fusco
Call this a mix of Indiana Jones and "Pee-Wee's Playhouse", in this somewhat juvenile action-Western that delivers good adventure while never really transcending comic book level depth. It's also excessively long for being such a modestly developed undertaking, padded for reasons that aren't very clear in terms of pushing forward this simplistic narrative. Yet despite its considerable flaws, Hidalgo manages to work somehow, with likeable performances by its colorful cast, and beautiful locales and cinematography (Shelly Johnson, Jurassic Park III).
Debatably based on true events, the story is set in the late 19th Century, where American cowboy Frank T. Hopkins (Mortensen, The Lord of the Rings), reportedly the best rider of the West, has been invited to participate in a dangerous 3,000 mile horse race across the Arabian desert. He travels to this faraway land, where he and his trusty mustang, Hidalgo, are pitted against some of the best riders in the world for a sheik's purse of $100,000. Being the outsider, Frank meets peril at every turn from the other riders, none of which want a Westerner to win the pride and glory of the race.
With gorgeous landscapes, lively swashbuckling action, a splash of romance, and some good, old-fashioned Western hokum, Hidalgo seeks to entertain on a broad level, offering something for just about anyone. This scattershot approach won't win it many awards, and does make it a difficult film to love outright, but it hits just enough right notes to please the majority of viewers modestly. Mortensen makes a good hero, manly enough to buy in the role, and gives eye candy for female viewers who might be completely bored otherwise. The rest of the cast is likeable, but cartoonish characterizations, horrible accents. and some silly make-up and costumes makes it obvious that this film is a big budget dress up adventure.
Tightening up is what Hidalgo really needs, as tedium sets in early and often, especially as things start to wind down. It's a likeable yarn, and outside of some occasionally violent confrontations, this is a decent film for those looking for something to entertain the whole family.
©2004 Vince Leo