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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24.53%
Just Average: 27.36%
Pretty Crappy: 8.49%
Sucks: 6.6%

5 reviews, 76 user ratings

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by David Cornelius

"A real rootin'-tootin' grand ol' time for you and your horse."
5 stars

I knew I was going to love “Hidalgo” the second Viggo Mortensen grumbled at his horse, “Let go a’ me, ya rabbit-eared son of a snake!” Yup, this is grand cowboy fun, a wild adventure with a glorious sense of excitement and wonder, from none other director Joe Johnston, that expert of excitement and wonder - he’s the one who wowed us with “The Rocketeer” and “October Sky,” and who made otherwise throwaway actioners “Jumanji” and “Jurassic Park III” far better than they needed to be.

For “Hidalgo,” Johnson once again shows he has the eye for thrills that bring out the child in us; his best work reminds me of Spielberg in his boy’s adventure mode. I’d even go so far as to say the film’s hero, Frank T. Hopkins, is on par with Indy Jones. Both are chisled, aw-shucks swashbucklers who blend self-effacing comedy and eye-popping bravado, often in the same scene. And as with “Raiders” and its sequels, “Hidalgo” featured countless scenes that made me want to get up and cheer.

The film is loosely based on real-life cowboy Hopkins, who went from cavalry officer to centerpiece in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Like most celebrity cowpokes of the era, Hopkins’ legend was one of great exaggeration, and the story that plays out on film here is based more on the fantastic hyperbole of a wonderful storyteller and self-promoter than on actual fact. But really, when the story’s this good, who cares if it’s been embellished? Isn’t that the point of a good tall tale?

The legend of Hopkins is this: after witnessing the massacre at Wounded Knee (Hopkins himself was a half-breed but passed for all-white), the soldier left the cavalry and became a nasty drunk and something of a carnival attraction. (Think Tom Cruise in “The Last Samurai,” only without the Cruiseiness.) At Buffalo Bill’s show, he’s billed as the greatest rider in the world, thanks to an impressive undefeated record in dozens of long- disatance endurance races. It’s a claim that catches the attention of some Arabian riders who feel that he may be the best rider in America, but the world? They challenge Hopkins to be the first American horseman to enter a grueling, potentially deadly 3000-mile race across the Arabian desert.

Hopkins naturally enters the race - otherwise there’d be no movie - but not for the prize money offered; no, he’s here to show the world that his Mustang, named Hidalgo, is every bit as good as the purebreds that get all the glory. And what a horse. Through the magic of filmmaking, which includes several animal actors and smart editing, Hidalgo is presented as a character every bit as real and as important as Hopkins. He is not just a prop, something on which the hero will ride, but a genuine character who creates a solid emotional connection to the story.

Also consider Mortensen’s performance. It’s one thing to be cowboy cool, it’s something greater to be cowboy cool and create a fully believable friendship between Hopkins and Hidalgo. Watch how Mortensen behaves around his animal co-star; as a guy who grew up around horses (and who owns a ranch that, yes, now includes the horse stars from both this movie and “Lord of the Rings“), Mortensen displays an uncanny naturalness. He not only looks at home riding the horse. He looks at home talking to him, as if his best friends have been horses all his life. Mortensen makes the perfect screen cowboy, and if this guy does nothing but churn out wild west adventures for the rest of his life, I’d be a happy guy.

Mortensen’s performance is a vital part of “Hidalgo,” as it sells the character as more than just a fun, larger-than-life caricature but as a real person. Hopkins never looks like a movie character, and Mortensen never looks like a movie star playing at being a cowboy. It’s so easy to buy this guy as the Real Deal. And if “Lord of the Rings” was the movie that made Mortensen a full-on movie star, “Hidalgo” is the movie that sold me on the idea of him being a full-on great actor. (Gone completely are any problems I had with the guy thanks to clunky roles in awful movies like “A Perfect Murder.” “Hidalgo” makes Viggo aces in my book.)

For all of the natural feel between the leading man and his leading horse, the movie does pack a good ton or two of the unbelievable and the incredible - this is, after all, a tall tale of the Old West, or the Middle East, as it were. And Johnston and screenwriter John Fusco aren’t afraid to pile on the impressive. Sandstorms. Locust swarms. A beautiful princess. Doublecrossing aristocrats. Daring rescues. And Omar Sharif - Omar Sharif!! - as a badass sheik who’s tough enough to behead a guy during one wicked battle scene, yet tender enough to quietly spout wisdom and admire Hopkins’ yarns of cowboy thrills.

Johnston handles all of this nonsense with great aplomb. With the help of a terrific cast, a solid script, and a crew of masterful technicians, he has built the kind of adventure movie that reminds people why they love adventure movies. “Hidalgo” is a thrilling actioner on par with Johnston’s best work, a glorious, visually stunning, deeply personal old fashioned epic that demands to be watched again and again. I left the movie beaming and wishing for another ride. That’s a great feeling to get from a movie. And “Hidalgo” is, hands down, a great, great movie.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8659&reviewer=392
originally posted: 02/23/05 14:34:52
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User Comments

12/07/14 zenny Lord of the Nieghs 4 stars
1/16/09 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. fun :] i love horse movies. 4 stars
7/12/06 R.W.Welch Okay adventure yarn tho Mortenson plays it a little too slack. 3 stars
6/21/06 Mary Rutland Glorious fun. 5 stars
9/14/05 Tom Burns A very enjoyable movie. 5 stars
8/29/05 ES American in the mid-east survives better in the desert than the natives of the land= crap 1 stars
7/02/05 Charlie Nothing special 3 stars
4/28/05 Quigley a very good film with good acting and even greater action, all on top of a good story 5 stars
4/15/05 Carol Conway Way too long 3 stars
3/30/05 hannaho Another example of Hollywood's view of history. 3 stars
3/25/05 Denise good and fun 4 stars
3/21/05 reptilesni An exotic and really well told story. 5 stars
3/17/05 B. D. Cole I fell asleep 3 nights in a row trying to watch the end of this ... dreadfull 1 stars
3/11/05 Bruce McLean unbeliveable 1 stars
3/08/05 Carolyn Rathburn Love every minute of it, they don't make enough movies like this. 5 stars
3/04/05 Gloria Anderson love this movie 5 stars
3/01/05 Maggie Dressler exciting andwonderful 5 stars
3/01/05 CanDance Walker I loved this movie! 5 stars
2/28/05 Jeanette T. all the movie lacked was a cartoon & a newsreel -- old fashioned fun! 4 stars
2/24/05 L.G. Enjoyed it; great wholesome film 4 stars
2/23/05 axe at turns eye-rolling and eye-popping 3 stars
11/26/04 HL Nice story..good action..keeps moving..... 4 stars
11/18/04 Jessie it was very exciting and moving! 2 thumbs up. 5 stars
10/14/04 Don Eckert Great action but didn't care about the character and subplots stupid. 3 stars
10/14/04 Emma Facinating entraping movie based on a true story 5 stars
8/23/04 ownerofdajoint good advenure flick;a little long...definitely worth seeing..great scenery.. 4 stars
8/15/04 elizaveta Viggo is the only saving grace - without his deep performance, it would be crap! 4 stars
8/15/04 Dan Booooring 1 stars
8/13/04 Li Uneven - but Omar shines as shiek 3 stars
8/10/04 Sharon very entertaining movie! 4 stars
7/25/04 Diane Hildalgo was a fun movie. I liked it. 4 stars
7/09/04 Confessions Of A Teenage Trauma Queen How in the blazes do they move those luxurious tent dwellings as fast as the horse race??? 3 stars
7/07/04 jasmine it is so good!!!love it!!! 5 stars
5/26/04 lucas isleno 3 stars
5/10/04 John fun concept, a few good moments but just a terrible script 2 stars
5/06/04 Mark Fulwiler Good fun! 4 stars
4/09/04 Spaz Viggo is amazing 5 stars
4/08/04 Bob Hidalgo, was a completely shitty movie. What was up with those ultra stereotypical Arabs? 1 stars
4/06/04 Austin Beggs It was great! I love the movie! 5 stars
3/24/04 Michelle Redel Viggo is captivating and I love the horses too! I would love to ride that cowboy yahooo 5 stars
3/22/04 Emily It's Great! Viggo did a wonderful job! Some of the editing was a little off, but that's ok! 5 stars
3/21/04 Jason Mundstuk Parodic plot, unbelievable twists, redeemed somewhat by last 15 minutes of self-realization 2 stars
3/20/04 chris i could tell you the ending before the movie started 3 stars
3/19/04 Brian A rip snortin adventure. I enjoyed it 4 stars
3/19/04 Alex Galli This is a fun and exciting movie with awesome action sequences. 4 stars
3/18/04 Pinto Mustang If you love horses and old-fashioned movies without pretention 5 stars
3/18/04 Suzy Boyle It was a pretty cool movie 5 stars
3/18/04 Wolf Slightly disappointing (CGI leopards SUCKED) but worth matinee. 3 stars
3/17/04 mystic Would go see it again just to see viggo!!!! 4 stars
3/17/04 Bobbi Jo Perez This movie was 1 of a kind. it was just awesome viggo was so good in this movie and really. 5 stars
3/16/04 sam really good 3 stars
3/16/04 alex reminded me of The Last Samurai. Damn similar beginning 3 stars
3/15/04 HorrorScribbler Okay ... unnecessary subplots, pretty horses. I understand real Hopkins a noted liar. 3 stars
3/15/04 A.S. brilliant,those who hate it,obsiously have not enough intelligence to know what is art!! 5 stars
3/14/04 sjrrsjyjsyrj booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
3/13/04 Marvin Excellent entertainment 4 stars
3/12/04 Jessica It was awesome 5 stars
3/10/04 Druce While not a blockbuster, definitely worth a viewing 4 stars
3/09/04 Richard Morgan Very entertaining. Finally a good movie for the whole family. 5 stars
3/09/04 misslooty Who was the editor for this film?but great cinematography 3 stars
3/09/04 BuBBa At first the movie was really fun but then it trailed off into a unneeded su plot of shieks 3 stars
3/08/04 Wendranh One of the few movies I want to see again! The horse is a better leading "man" than most w 5 stars
3/07/04 jcjs wonderful, adventurous, lovely, romance, horse and man 5 stars
3/07/04 Merry Writer 4 stars
3/07/04 Nancy O Really enjoyed it. Scenery great, Horses magnificent. Great leading men to watch. 4 stars
3/06/04 Kate Great! 5 stars
3/06/04 Amira Zahra AWFUL, Full of incorrect and negative stereotypes 1 stars
3/06/04 Jayman a throw back horse epic with a soul 5 stars
3/06/04 john awsome, lovely, graveful, delightfully surprised, simplicity, dance, beauty, grace, focus.. 5 stars
3/06/04 Lord Chu Great stuff, simple but charming. 5 stars
3/05/04 Ren This is an awesome movie!! 5 stars
3/05/04 Carver S. uuuhhhh....Viggo..on a horse....AGAIN.... 3 stars
3/05/04 paganchyk Uneven, but the good parts are really good 4 stars
3/04/04 Ray This is really good!!! 4 stars
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  05-Mar-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-Aug-2004



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