Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Seabiscuit also known as “Alma de héroes,” “Favoritas,” “Nascido Para Ganhar,” “Niepokonany Seabiscuit,” “Pur sang: la légende de Seabiscuit,” “Seabiscuit - Alma de Herói,” “Seabiscuit - Amerikkalainen legenda,” “Seabiscuit - Mit dem Willen zum Erfolg,” “Seabiscuit - Un mito senza tempo,” “Seabiscuit, más allá de la leyenda,” “Vágta,” “Zafer yolu”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, mature themes, sports violence, and sexual situations

Reviewed by: D.J. Williams (with comments by Edwin Hopkins)

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Sports History Drama
2 hr. 20 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
July 25, 2003
Copyright, Universal Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues


“You don’t throw a whole life away simply because it’s banged up a little.”

our sinful condition


Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, William H. Macy | Directed by: Gary Ross | Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Gary Ross, Jane Sindell | Written by: Gary Ross, Laura Hillenbrand, Charlie Mitchell | Distributor: Universal Pictures

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: This is the true story of a former bicycle repairman, Charles Howard (Bridges), who made his fortune introducing the automobile to the American West, and who owned a small, knobbly-kneed horse called Seabiscuit. Howard teamed up with a half-blind ex-boxing prize fighter, Red Pollard (Maguire), who became the horse’s jockey and a former “mustang breaker” Wild West performer called “The Lone Plainsman,” Tom Smith (Cooper), who became the horse’s trainer. As the United States struggled through the Great Depression, people around the country followed with rapt interest of the Seabiscuit story, leading to his win of the Horse of the Year honors in 1938.

In a summer of big bangs and booms, it’s nice to see a quiet film for a change. This summer, unlike last year, has been filled with blockbusters—big action-adventure movies big on effects but short on substance. That being said, some of the blockbusters have been exceptional (“Pirates of the Caribbean”, “X2,” etc.), but we’ve still been left wanting to see a film that’s quieter and deeper. That wait has now ended with the arrival of “Seabiscuit”, the true story of a depression-era racehorse that inspired the nation and the three men who took him to victory.

The film begins in 1910 with a montage of photographs from the period, with narration provided by PBS regular David McCullough. The sequence does a wonderful job of involving the audience in the world of the film, and also of introducing the main characters. We have Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), an automobile dealer and enthusiast who goes from rags to riches selling cars in California, Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), an old cowboy saddened by the slow departure of the open range, and Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), a young man with a talent for jockeying who is given up (abandoned, he feels) by his parents at the age of sixteen to pursue a career. Then there’s Seabiscuit, a small, underachieving horse bred from greatness but a failure on the track.

Time passes forward to the beginning of the depression, and Howard is suddenly devastated by his young son’s tragic death and the subsequent departure of his wife. Thus, he heads off to a Mexican border town to forget (and perhaps drink away) his sorrows. There he meets Marcela (Elizabeth Banks), who will soon become his second wife. Looking for a new start, he purchases the feisty Seabiscuit and meets and hires Smith and Pollard to train and ride him.

The three underdogs and their misfit horse proceed to capture the heart of a nation devastated by the depression.

The acting is magnificent, with all three leads giving incredible performances and making us cheer for them all the more. Bridges (“K-PAX”, “Fearless”) is perfectly cast as the calm head holding the bunch together, while up-and-comer Banks (bit roles in Spider-Man, “Catch Me if You Can”) complements him terrifically.

Cooper (“October Sky”, “American Beauty”) never ceases to amaze with another great performance as a man who has lost any relevance to the world only to find it again, and Maguire (“Spider-Man”) delivers perhaps the movie’s strongest performance as the restless young jockey.

The additions of William H. Macy (“Jurassic Park III”, “Fargo”) as an over-the-top radio personality and real-life jockey Gary Stevens as the great jockey of the day round out the best ensemble cast of the year.

The racing scenes are thrilling and brilliantly shot. Director Gary Ross (“Pleasantville”) drops us right into the action, with hooves thundering and dirt flying all around. Yet as great as the races are, the strength of the film is clearly in its heartfelt true story. Some may criticize the movie as overly sentimental and cliché, but this is a story that certainly deserves sentimental treatment, and it’s done superbly. The themes of overcoming adversity and giving people a second chance weren’t cliché to the Americans experiencing the story in the 30’s, they were an inspirational lift to millions struggling just to get by.

In a culture where even Christians are becoming increasingly cynical, this is just the feel-good story we need. From troubled outset to beautifully emotional conclusion, “Seabiscuit” tears and inspires our hearts.

The beautifully soaring score of Oscar®-winning composer Randy Newman (“Toy Story”, “Monsters, Inc.”) highlights the emotion of the film wonderfully and is a perfect fit.

Famed critic Roger Ebert states that “In a summer of superheroes, my favorite hero is a horse.” I couldn’t agree more. As good as some of the summer’s action films have been, none of them can touch Seabiscuit’s drama and heart. Beautifully done on every front, “Seabiscuit” is not only a great film, but the best film so far this year.

The uplifting story is one that is sure to resound with audiences across the country, and the emotional journey of the film is one that everyone can relate to. Yes, I loved watching the comic book thrills of “X2” and “Hulk,” I loved watching Keanu’s Neo and Johnny Depp’s bizarre pirate. But none of them can touch the simple, heartfelt story of an overachieving little horse, the men who came from broken lives to race him, and the struggling nation they inspired. In a summer of spectacle, the long shot takes the prize.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Mild

Comments from Edwin Hopkins

The most amazing line in this film is from Chris Cooper—“You don’t throw a whole life away simply because it’s banged up a little.” That goes for us humans, as well as animals. Jesus never gave up on us when we were banged up from our sinful condition. This true story teaches that no matter the trials and tribulations, you can, with God’s help, rise in triumph. No matter what the odds may be against you, you can succeed.

The redemption of three men trying to put their lives back together is not unlike our redemption through Christ Jesus. Plus, the importance of sharing that redemption experience with the world. “Seabiscuit” will make you laugh at the funny moments, cry when tragedy comes and cheer and scream each time this amazing colt crosses the finish line. It is a classic tale of how three men-and a horse—rose from the depths of despair, supported one another and, more importantly, learned from one another life’s values and priorities.

Editor’s Note: This film is rated PG-13 for language (scattered throughout but not graphic, usually a result of people frustrated by life), some sexual situations (some dialogue and a scene between Pollard and a prostitute, though no actual sex takes place) and violent sports-related injuries (an intense scene of a man being dragged behind a horse). The film explores some terrific themes, such as men overcoming adversity and brokenness and offering others a second chance. Howard and his wife are also depicted as churchgoers, indicating a belief in God. The film as a whole is very heartwarming and uplifting. We would not, however, recommend the film to kids; it’s not really aimed at them anyway. However, it’s a relatively tame PG-13, and a film that teens and adults should view with discretion.
Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—As a Christian and horse racing enthusiast, I loved this movie, but was also disappointed by the language.

First, the positives—the story is one of redemption—we can be down and out, broken and blind, yet God still loves us. And this is the story that is told in the movie—there is still hope for those who ARE down and out, broken and blind. The movie captured the heart of the book, and accurately depicts the hope of the nation during the depression—Seabiscuit was the people’s horse and gave those down and out folks during the depression something to cheer for. Any horse racing enthusiast will tell you that the bottom line for most horse races, and most racehorses is “heart”. Truly great racehorses won’t ever give up, and I think that the movie was a great lesson for all of us to have faith that God ultimately takes care of us and loves us, warts and all.

My disappointment in the movie was the language. I believe it is a wonderful story—one that I would like the whole family to see and talk about, but the Lord’s name taken in vain several times just didn’t “fit” in my eyes. I know that it was probably “reality”, but for such a moving story, I would hope that for once, the producers would sanitize the movie just a little so that it could reach a wider audience. On a slightly more positive note, I thought the way they handled the scene with the prostitute was fine, i.e., “sanitized”, I just wish Hollywood would use a more respectful approach to the name of our Lord.

As a youth leader, I believe the positives outweigh the negatives, and I would recommend the movie for teens and above and am considering taking my youth group to go see it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Carl Fuglein, age 56
Positive—This movie was amazing. I took my 13 year old daughter who loves horses to see it and we were totally drawn in emotionally. Yes, there were some words that I didn’t want to hear and a scene with a prostitute(nothing was shown), but overall I completely loved the storyline. It’s a feel good movie that takes you on a wonderful journey. The theme of giving second chances runs through the whole movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Lori, age 34
Positive—If you appreciated the heart of movies like “Remeber the Titans”, “Hoosiers”, and “October Sky,” you will probably appreciate the heart of “Seabiscuit.” It has the balm of encouragement for anyone who has experienced some form of brokeness. Though “Seabiscuit” is not a movie about Christian faith, it develops its charm from such moral qualities as the gifts, values, and meaningfulness of each life. There is language and some suggestive scenes inappropriate for younger children, but for teens and adults who are not easily influenced by such expressions, the healing and bonding that takes place among the characters is rewarding. Perhaps one could infer that the strongest bond may be “scar tissue,” or, that through brokeness one can become whole.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Pat, age 50
Positive—Loved it, except for the brothel scene mentioned above and the using of the Lord’s name in vain 2 or 3 times. Excellent cast. Bill Macy has the only main charactor not based on a real person, but he is the comic relief, and does a great job as usual.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Mike C, age 47
Positive—This is worth seeing, possibly more than once. The central theme of broken people (and horses) rising above their circumstances is uplifting. Loyalty and relationship commitments are also seen to bear fruit. This was magnified by the abandonment of a child. There was not much possitive or negative faith-related content. It was as beautiful visually as it was emotionally.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Chris Cardone, age 43
Positive—This is an excellent film all the way around. It is a story populated by well-developed characters facing human challenges and overcoming adversity and loss. Chris Cooper’s character as the down-and-out horse trainer reminds us all of the need for and immeasurable value of redemption. Maguire’s portrayal of the jockey who overcomes separation from family, hardship, defeat and injury is a great encouragement to all facing daily struggles. Finally, Jeff Bridges role as the horse owner—devastated by the tragic loss of his son, reminds us to never to give up hope. His character really exemplefies love of neighbor in the way that he patiently mentors and provides for his rider and trainer, even in the midst of overwhelming pressure to win races. Also, you have to love William H. Macy’s portrayal of the announcer who brings a refreshing blend of family style entertainment and comedic flair that provides needed relief from the gravity of the story. Also, I might add that, according to one fellow viewer who actually lived through the Great Depression and the Seabiscuit story—this film is a very accurate and heart-warming portayal of a story that gave a lot of people hope at a very bleaek time in our nation’s history. Take the family to see this one—there are some mature scenes such as minor violence when they depict Red’s earlier career as a boxer, and when he sustains the injury, but overall, an excellent film with much redemptive value.
My Ratings: [Good / 4]
—John, age 33
Neutral—I had mixed emotions sitting through this film, as a Christian. The story is a beautiful and wonderful story with much to tell, historically and emotionally about the times. I laughed, I cried… but… as a pastor’s wife, I don’t feel I could go recommend this show to anyone without GREAT warning! I had read the review before we went and I felt caution but not as much as what was needed. The Lord’s name was taken in vain several times, the “s” word and “s.o.b.” were used more times than you can count. It was so much, it was very unnecessary! The other, was the brothell scene that is mentioned in the review and by others, it was more uncomfortable than I thought it would be. It gets to the point of the top back view of a woman undressing and standing naked. I would love to see this movie after a group like Clean Flix gets a hold of it and takes out that unneeded scene and all of the language, although that may make it a silent film at some points! Beautiful story, again, tainted by Hollywood!
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—n/a, age n/a
Comments from young people
Positive—I thought this movie was fine I guess. The one thing I didn’t like was when somebody dies and the guy who rides Seabiscuit has to go away from his parents forever. But the rest was great. The races were very cool, it had a lot of bad language. But, when they had horse races, it feels like you are on a adventure and actually riding the horse! One of the reasons I wanted to see it because of Toby Mcguire who played Spider-man. I also recognized the boy who plays him when he is little is form Little Secrets as Philip. I think ages 10 and up can see it.
My Ratings: [Good / 4]
—Carolyn, age 10
Positive—This excellent, well-produced film should be a front runner come time for the Oscars. Seabiscut presents an endearing and emotional story about those who fight against all kinds of adversity and triumph. Acting by Tobey Maguire and others is top-notch, and the overall story combines plenty of events and details while being involving throughout. Cinematography is great too. In terms of content, the language can get pretty rough at times, there is some alcohol abuse, and there are a couple scenes involving sexual content (one with near nudity). Appropriate for young teens and up. Children would likely get lost by the story anyway. Still, a wonderful and entertaining film for most anyone.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Andrew Ledwith, age 16
Movie Critics
“Seabiscuit” will satisfy those who have read the book, and I imagine it will satisfy those like myself, who have not.
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…a neatly satisfying movie-going experience…
—Margaret A. McGurk, Cincinnati Enquirer
…Sleek, beautiful and packed with emotion…
—Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
…It turns the thrilling celebration of a collection of rambunctious, maverick characters into an exercise in high-minded, responsible sentimentality…
—A.O. Scott, New York Times