ďHidalgoĒ pans over vast amounts of desert and beautiful Arabian settings, but it is quite clear that this is a horse movie. The horse in question is adorable, a small American Mustang with a large personality, who - unlike horses in some movies - seems like he can't be replaced by a well-meaning car.
Hidalgo is said to be based on a true story, though a few internet searches uncover that it is in fact a complete untruth. The only bit that is true about it is that Frank T. Hopkins was a man who worked with horses, but the rest seems to be fictitious. However, it does make for an incredible story.
In this story Frank T. Hopkins a dispatch rider who unknowingly causes the death of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Being half Lakota Sioux himself, he feels (understandably) horrible about that, and runs away to Buffalo Billís travelling circus, where Hopkins boasts that he and his horse, Hidalgo, are the fastest racers in the world. During one day on the job, some annoyed Arabian men come and inform him, rather stuffily, that if he is the best rider in the world, then he better prove it by going on a deadly Arabian race, or else take down the slogan. Well, naturally, he goes to the race, where he endures a long bit of laughter from his rich Arabian foes, has an encounter with a beautiful woman whose mare is entered in the contest, and has a dangerous interlude with the sheikís beautiful daughter, who wants him to win the race. And then the race begins!
Although the horse (as cute as it is) is the title character, this is Viggo Mortensonís movie all the way. Although I believe every actor should try a role that challenges them, Iím very happy Viggo Mortensonís newest movie after the stunning Lord of the Rings has him playing the same Ranger Aragorn type of character that won him allegiance...rugged, manly and irresistible. Although the Arabian Desert isnít quite Mines Tirith, you can still see the resemblance in the character. He pulls this role off with much aplomb, and you can tell he is enjoying himself, which is usually a good sign. Omar Sharif is also quite good as the overprotective father of Jazira, the princess who Frank rescues and has a strong friendship with.
Disney, after the huge success of Pirates of the Caribbean last summer (loved it, by the way) seem to be approaching the dreaded PG-13 rating cautiously, as it had almost nothing inappropriate in it, except for some adventure violence, which mostly seems to consist of people that we donít know being killed, and one mild scene that may have adults uncomfortable, but young children probably would have no idea what was going on.
This movie is almost surprisingly good. I had high expectations about it, being a movie with the splendid Mortenson in it, but as I donít see many horse movies or necessarily seek them out to watch, I didnít know quite what to expect. But this movie almost reminds me of ďThe MummyĒ with horses. Itís good, solid adventure, with a few tender moments. I would recommend this to almost anyone, even people who arenít necessarily obsessed with horses. Overall, I would give this movie a nine, and recommend it to anyone looking for some nice, strong, adventure fun.
© 2004 - Natalie Johnson - Air Date: 2004