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Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Hidalgo and Louise Lombard
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Rated: PG-13

Bluntly speaking? Hidalgo's often-sweeping vistas of a foreign land commingle with the beauty of its star, Viggo Mortensen, to deliver an interesting, multi-genre yarn. While the film can waver from itself, Mortensen is steadfast like a throw back to the old school smoldering actors that paraded about the prairies, years ago; sexy and very iconic American cowboy.

The dvd gives you a short peek behind the scenes in the Bonus Features Area with a snip called, 'Sand and Celluloid'. The piece has some fun interlaced interviews, and sandy backdrops.

They've also included a separate more historical featurette promising oodles of legit history on the real, Frank T. Hopkins, and his horse, Hidalgo (though I hear Frank's bestest horse's real name was Joe. Hehe. That's a lot less Hollywood film title though huh?). This feature spectacular is apparently only viewable via dvd-rom on a computer - that's a tad odd. You'll need that high-class rich folk system to view that part on your computer I suppose folks.

But, the real feedbag bonus here kids is barely for the small Lakota symbol, it's down on the left , looking like a misplaced link "button." It leads to a nifty piece with Viggo and a few Lakota talking about the legend of Frank T. Hopkins in the Indian world. The brief interviews are shown with many of Mortensen's beautiful horse and location photos (buy 'The Horse Is Good' & 'Miyelo' related photo books here).

Sadly, there's no audio commentary running beside the film. I say sadly because it is truly an exciting location with some grand characters on and off the screen, and I am sure the comments would have been informative and fun.
Story goes… It's 1890, and half-breed Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo) hides his Indian blood while America is building itself by annihilating the "red man" and garnering territories. He's sickened by the bloodshed but hides within the comfort of 100 proof cactus juice. After witnessing a particularly dark day in American history, he quits his job as Calvary courier and takes up with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. He performs stunts with his wild Mustang, Hidalgo - the greatest horse alive.

When a Sheik (Omar Sharif) finds out Hidalgo is daring to bill himself as the greatest horse known to man, his ego requires him to request the presence of Mr. Hopkins and the lowly horse in a famous 3,000 mile survival race across the Arabian Desert called The Ocean of Fire. The entries and winners of the race are traditionally the Arabian sort. Magnificent horses bred for power and country and ridden for centuries in the prestigious race, by the Bedouin.

Naturally, Frank's none too keen on parading his buddy Hidalgo across the barren lands for fame or wealth, but he's America's greatest long-distance rider and a dare is a dare. So, off they go.

Hidalgo and Frank are the laughing stock of the race. And a bit out of their element both culturally and experience-wise. But, a cowboy (which this studmuffin most certainly is) never gives up and he's rich in something the others don't have, honor.

Oh, they claim to have honor but, faster then you can say, " Git along lil' pardner," there's mischief afoot.

Another race entrant, a society gal (Louise Lombard), and her champion steed need to win - at any cost - to secure breeding rights with the Sheik's grand stallion. This would give her unlimited power, prestige and bragging rights 'round the country club of Yorkshire…

So, the shenanigans begin. When Frank and Hidalgo prove to be a tad more worthy opponents than originally thought, the woman and her brooding accomplices plan horrific and dramatic measures. It's plot embellishment raring its ugly head folks!

Very loosely based on a true American tale of the wild west, writer John Fusco (of Young Guns fame) doesn't play to a mass audience. Fusco tries to keep focused on Hopkins' need for self redemption and pride of self, often at the expense of his trusting technically captive compadre Hidalgo. Fusco also tries to share a bit of America's darker days of growth amid the fluffy more marketable tale. The film's kind of bipolar in that sense. There are a few actual historical tidbits offered up in the Hollywoodized script, but history has been most certainly romanticized and some scenes read sort of like a "we needed cgi action sequences folks," Raiders of the Lost Ark/Mummy homage (without all that great tongue-in-cheek humor)...

Ultimately the film sadly often just misses its opportunity to become an epic. The story's liberties with history aside, it's the mandatory audience catching clichés that really are to blame for stealing the film's soul. Like a silly, unnecessary, subplot of a beautiful princess being kidnapped and the dumming-up of Frank (he's in the middle of the desert without food or water for he or his horse - yet he's suppose to be - according to all accounts - America's best long-distance rider) kept this viewer from indulging the piece.

On the plus side, the chemistry between Viggo and the horse is uncanny. And Mortensen's strong easy-going performance shows he's a staying talent capable of commanding a film, even without a batillionizillion CGI effects, oodles of hobbits and end-of-the-world drama within middle-Earth power struggles. It's obvious film loves Viggo Mortensen; his image is capturing. And frankly, if you thought this guy was sexy as Aragorn the reluctant King in Lord of the Rings, here he's positively an illegal beauhunk; his entire person oozing slurpable lust. Vig's all scruffied up in western wear and mumbling in that oh-so-sexy Chapsman lingo that makes a gal wanna slather him in goat butter, sauté him in a big ol' vat of prairie lust.

Viggilicious' costar Hidalgo the horse really seems to understand he's a star! But the continuing drive of his "master," that puts the animal in peril, even in a prettied up story that attempted to have the horse communicate its desire to go on at any cost (spear through the chest and all), had this animal lover wincing. Fear not however, it's all smoke and mirrors and the main Hidalgo horse (there were five I think), T.J., was actually purchased by Mortensen at the film's wrap - so it's a true Hollywood ending for this leedle fella!

It was wonderful to see Omar Sharif back in robes upon a set of dust and sand…this man's a legend and the role shines with his charisma. He still looks hot in a turban too!

Snack recommendation: Dates and crispy nummy sun dried locust.


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