Three men who are struggling in the time of the Great Depression are brought together by Seabiscuit, a racehorse whose temperament made his unkind owner raise him to lose every race he was put in. When the men see the grit and determination in Seabiscuit, they all find a reason to fight for success and, with Seabiscuit finally allowed to win, he becomes a sensation in a time when the American people needed it the most.
Seabiscuit (2003) – Director: Gary Ross
Running Length: 140 mins
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper
‘Seabiscuit’ follows the true story of a smaller-than-average racehorse whose spirited nature captured the hearts of a nation and gave people something to believe in when everything else seemed lost.
With a focus on making the drama feel comfortable, ‘Seabiscuit’ takes its time in getting to the action (and indeed to even introduce the titular Seabiscuit into the plot) but this slower start gives the audience time to warm to the characters who will become those who truly believe in the horse’s talents. The twee way in which the ‘American Dream’ ideal of an underdog story somewhat distracts from the harshness of the times in which people were living; the cliché of narration over newspaper headlines doesn’t even begin to put across what was happening in those days, especially as the main characters barely seem affected by the Crash. That being said, the glossiness can be overlooked for an uplifting and enjoyable tale of triumph over adversity which follows the lives of several likeable characters.
This movie is far more drama than action and, although there are exciting scenes of narrowly won or lost horse races, it is likely to be too dull for a lot of kids. However, if you’re looking for something to watch on a rainy day that comfortably takes its time with its story but never outstays its welcome, ‘Seabiscuit’ is the film for you.
IS ‘SEABISCUIT’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
There is a voiceover at several key points throughout the movie and one of these briefly describes the beginning of the Great Depression saying ‘there were no suicides on Wall Street that day’.
A family who are struggling to survive during the Depression give away one of their sons to another family, believing it to be in his best interest. This leads to a very emotional moment with the son begging not to be abandoned and his parents struggling with their decision but ultimately going through with it.
A young boy is killed in an automobile accident which is not shown on-screen. There are close-ups of a water-logged car and a toy inside it. The boys’ distraught father is shown from a distance holding and rocking his son’s body. This death is unexpected and could be quite upsetting for some kids.
There are several boxing and fighting scenes which are short but quite graphic. Both fighters are shown to hit each other hard and some blood is seen; after one fight, one of the men has a large bruise on his face.
A distressed horse is held down by several men, it struggles against them and the dialogue explains that the horse has a broken leg. A man holds a gun as he is going to kill the horse due to its injuries but another man steps in to stop him.
One scene is set in a brothel; it isn’t graphically announced as this type of establishment but the women are all just wearing underwear. At one point, two men ride on the backs of two of the women like horses, pretending to whip them but this is all done in good humour and the women are laughing with the men while they do this. One of the male established characters is seen lying in bed with a woman; both are in their underwear; the woman then undresses completely and is seen from the top of her chest upwards.
A character forces himself to vomit, only his head is seen and he is clearly out of breath. He takes a few moments to recover then sticks his fingers down his throat; his head ducks down below the camera and retching sounds can be heard.
While a horse is being trained, its owner is not kind and wants to break its gentle nature, telling the rider with a whip, ‘I want you to hit him as many times as you can over a quarter of a mile’. This kind of treatment continues for some time, eventually making the horse angry and bitter.
One of the riders is knocked off a horse which gets spooked when it hears a loud noise. It falls over and after a few seconds, gets up and bolts; the rider’s foot is caught in the stirrup and they are taken with the horse as it runs away. The rider tries to free their foot but is unable to and is badly injured; a while later a doctor informs their loved ones that the bones in their leg are ‘shattered’, that they will have a long recovery and will never ride a horse again.
A horse is badly injured and its owner is told that it will never race again. A man with good intentions tells its owners ‘I’ll put him down for you if you want me to’.
Throughout the movie, horses are whipped during training and racing. This is done as a matter of course although some of the people are clearly crueller to the animals than others. Younger children may not understand why the horses are being whipped and this may upset them.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
Saying that ‘Seabiscuit’ doesn’t race towards the finish line would be an understatement and although its action scenes are exciting, the film overall is one to be enjoyed at a slower pace than usual. While kids may be drawn to a movie with horses at its core, it is likely to be too boring for short attention spans. Although we feel the content is suitable for kids aged 6 and over, we wouldn’t really recommend it as a film for children as it is aimed squarely at a more mature audience who don’t mind the slow pace of the plot.
- Violence: 2/5 (the boxing scenes are a little violent. One character with a troubled past starts fights with people, even when he is heavily outnumbered)
- Emotional Distress: 1/5 (During a race, a character allows himself to lose in order to help his friend win, this genuine act of friendship is very touching)
- Fear Factor: 0/5
- Sexual Content: 1/5 (two male characters are talking and one makes fun of another by saying ‘Everything gets longer in the retelling, just ask your friend Wanda’. One character recites a poem which ends with the line ‘I wined her and dined her and then I reclined her’)
- Bad Language: 2/5 (frequent mild cursing and blasphemy)
- Dialogue: 1/5
- Other notes: Deals with themes of horse racing, overcoming the troubles of one’s past, believing in something that seems impossible, coping with loss, triumphing over adversity, not giving up and seizing opportunities when they come your way.
Words by Laura Record