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Hidalgo

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Its producers would love nothing more than for their film to be compared to Lawrence of Arabia (1962), but while it's got plenty of sand and Omar Sharif in a shora, this action-adventure is no Lawrence. It has neither the trademark scope nor bracingly flinty characterizations of David Lean, nor does it even have the cinematography of another similar film, The Black Stallion (1979). Despite this, Hidalgo (2004) is a surprisingly fun, brisk adventure. Sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut, and sometimes even the Hollywood system gets one right. In this case, the lucky parties are the homogenized corporate culture of Disney, mixed with the former effects-guy milieu of Joe Johnston, blended with the faux-stirring histrionics of screenwriter John Fusco. (For an Italian guy from Connecticut, Fusco must be really into horses -- his last film was 2002's wretchedly titled Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron). Somehow, it all works out, probably in no small part to rapid-fire editing and a commendably go-for-broke performance from Viggo Mortensen, who must be a little saddle sore after this and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but persuasively plays a fairly dumb cowboy who nevertheless trumps a variety of goofy, central-casting baddies by employing his all-American horse sense. It's made to be rented, seen on cable, or caught on an in-flight feature, but Hidalgo fulfills its humble ambitions, and that's more than you can say for a lot of other movies that spill from the maw of the Hollywood machine. Karl Williams, All Movie Guide

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