Jeff Bridges stars as Charles Howard, a bicycle shop salesman who follows his dreams and opens a Buick dealership in California. Soon, he is one of the wealthiest men on the West Coast, but the beginning of The Great Depression and personal tragedy lead Howard to look for something else in his life – and that leads him to a trip to Mexico where he will meet his future wife, and it's her love of horses that leads him into the horse racing business.
But Howard doesn't pick any old horse…he picks a broken-down one that nobody believes can be trained. He hires a trainer (played by Chris Cooper) that seems just as broken down, and he picks up a jockey (Tobey Maguire) who has been abandoned by his parents, is blind in one eye, and seems way too big to compete as a jockey.
The thing I liked most about Seabiscuit was that the film takes its time to properly introduce you to these people. The horse itself doesn't appear until a good 45-minutes into the movie – as we get to know about both Bridges' and Maguire's characters. That may seem like an awful lot of exposition (the movie runs a total of 2 hours and 20 minutes), but it pays off during the second half of the film because as a viewer, you really care about what happens to these people.
The performances here are also top-notch. Bridges seems to be channeling the same charisma he did when he played Preston Tucker, and Maguire proves that he is one of our finest young actors with another solid performance here. Cooper, too, is wonderful in his role as trainer Tom Smith – but I'm sure I won't be the only one who feels that his backstory is the most underdeveloped of all the characters in this movie.
Of course, much of the movie is the way you would expect a film like this to be – tugging at our emotions with big races, so we can cheer when Seabiscuit wins and tear up when he doesn't. Yes, the film is a bit manipulative, but because it also takes the time to develop the characters, we can forgive the film for its few moments of melodrama.
Like Rocky, The Natural and other sports-themed pictures where the underdog rises up for one last shot at glory, Seabiscuit is one of those movies that makes it fun to go to the theater again. As much a tribute to the men and women of that era of American history as it is to the characters of this film, Seabiscuit offers up the best ride you'll have at the movies this summer. Be sure to race down to your local theater and saddle up for this well-made film!