Biscuit is Gravy

Sure, Seabiscuit 's better than all the action sequels it's up against. But what will a fan of the book say?

But McCann's greatest scorn was reserved for the red-headed, blind-in-one-eye jockey who rides Seabiscuit to racing glory. McCann explained that in the book, Red Pollard was a complex, angry little battler who wanted to pick a fight with the world.

"That character was an angry man, and we get this frustrated boy. And that's a shame," she said. Maguire, she complained, just didn't fit the role.

Not that the diminutive actor didn't give his all. But when he loses his temper, challenging to pummel another character, for example, McCann found it completely unbelievable.

Mary "The Bone Mama" McCann
Emily Piraino
Mary "The Bone Mama" McCann

"Wasn't it painfully obvious that Tobey Maguire has never said I'll kick his ass' to anyone before? I've said I'll kick your ass' with more conviction!"

Maguire may have looked convincing in the saddle in racing sequences that were the triumph of the film, but the Bone Mama just couldn't get over the bad casting.

"You have a boy playing this complex man. It's disappointing."

Still, even McCann gave props to the rousing showdown between the little horse that could and his main rival, War Admiral. And she wasn't the only one. The audience at the screening had been so primed for the one-on-one match (a race, the narration tells us, that was heard by 40 million Americans on radio), that spontaneous cheering seemed to burst involuntarily from filmgoers as Seabiscuit made his decisive move.

It was exhilarating. But there was still plenty of film to go, and still plenty of sentimentalizing on the menu. McCann was dismayed that the final triumphant racing moment plays in slow motion like a funeral dirge.

"For a horse racing film -- about speed -- it was kind of slow," she said. And she wondered why more of the book's spirit couldn't have made it to the big screen. "It's almost like they didn't have faith in the story, and they needed to make up something to make it more Hollywood. But the story didn't need that," she said.

For other fans of the book, she advised: "Go in there with Hollywood expectations. Don't go to see the book. And try to forget that you're watching Tobey Maguire." --By Tony Ortega

Contact the author at his online address,, or call 602-229-8426

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