Frank Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) was a real guy and Hidalgo was a real horse. Supposedly, they never lost a long distance race in the U.S., prompting them to head for the Middle East around 1890 and compete in a 3,000-mile run across the desert. Regardless, I would have titled this film "Aragorn Mounts Seabiscuit."
Here's Hollywood logic gone bad: a horse movie requires horse reaction shots which requires that the bond between man and horse is frequently accentuated by a knowing look from Hidalgo. This presents one of three possibilities: 1) The horse playing Hidalgo is the smartest horse ever, 2) Bug-eyed special effects or 3) Some animal trainer has put his hand up Hidalgo's ass.
When Hidalgo isn't making faces at Hopkins, Jazira (Zuleikha Robinson), the daughter of race organizer Sheikh Riyadh (Omar Sharif), is. She's apparently the one feminist in the entire country. She's willing to jeopardize her father's position to ride horses and help Hopkins. Predictably, Hopkins finds time to lecture Riyadh on the value of strong women because he's an 1890s American cowboy and they're hip to such things.
This film bears a disturbing resemblance to "The Last Samurai." In that film, Cruise plays a soldier who witnesses a Civil War massacre and becomes a drunk, only to find salvation in Japan by beating the Japanese at their own game. In "Hidalgo," Hopkins watches troops massacre Native Americans and becomes a drunk, only to find salvation in the Middle East by beating the Arabs at their own game.
Frankly, you'd have to be drunk yourself to enjoy "Hidalgo."
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