Main cast: Viggo Mortensen (Frank T Hopkins), Zuleikha Robinson (Jazira), Omar Sharif (Sheikh Riyadh), Louise Lombard (Lady Anne Davenport), Adam Alexi-Malle (Aziz), Saïd Taghmaoui (Prince Bin Al Reeh), Silas Carson (Katib), Harsh Nayyar (Yusef), and JK Simmons (Buffalo Bill Cody)
Director: Joe Johnston
Viggo Mortensen really doesn't worry too much about being typecasted, I guess, for he comes off riding high from his role as Prince Aragorn in those certain three movies that spawned a generation of insipidly overzealous fans that put Jedi fanatics to shame to play another guy on a horse saving the day. He probably realizes that he will never star in another movie that will make him as big as those three movies did so he may as well make hay while the sun shines.
Hidalgo is supposed to be based on a true adventure in the life of Frank T Hopkins, who must be related to the chronic liar in Big Fish. I'm quite disappointed that the main character in this movie is Frank and not Hidalgo, because think of the fun I could have otherwise! "Viggo is Hidalgo!" has a nice ring to it. Or better still, "Viggo's Hidalgo is a no go!"
As a silly action flick, Hidalgo could have still worked if the movie is more tightly focused. Instead, it runs all over the place, with the pace meandering so slowly that when the action scenes begin nearly forty minutes into the movie, I am halfway stupefied by boredom. Filled to the brim with stereotypes, this movie revolves around Frank T Hopkins, a half-breed guy performing in a circus and getting all drunk and useless as a way to atone, dumb idiot male style, for his witnessing the massacre of a Native American tribe. The visiting Sheikh Riyadh from the Middle-East is offended by the circus touting Frank's horse Hidalgo as the fastest horse in the world and challenges Frank to take part in the annual 3,000-mile race across the Arabian desert. Along the way Frank has to rescue Arabian damsels and deal with femme fatale widows while trouncing bumbling Middle Eastern guys to his final glory.
If you ever wonder what a solo Prince Aragorn adventure movie will be like, Hidalgo is your movie. Mortensen is utterly wooden - he's not even making any effort to act here. Then again, I'd be embarrassed to do much myself if I have to utter lines like his. That line where he tells a sore loser that this loser can insult him all he wants but Frank will not tolerate any insult to Hidalgo - that line is especially embarrassing. Bad dialogues aside, this movie is quite stingy with the action scenes, which is unfortunate because the "dramatic" scenes are the most laden with hammy dialogues and hence the most painful scenes to watch. Even when the movie is knee-deep in action though, awkward computer-generated effects and ridiculous mystical elements keep me amused for all the wrong reasons.
I am very forgiving when it comes to popcorn fluff. Hidalgo however doesn't generate the adrenaline rush or contain enough visual thrills to make up for its scarcity of good acting and credible plot. It's just a movie with hammy lines, bad acting, so-so action sequences, stale storyline, and inept attempts at wit, which might still be campy fun if the director hasn't taken this movie so seriously and stretch it to over two hours of painfully predictable and mind-numbingly boring failed attempts at recreating those action adventure movies of Hollywood's golden era.
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