Friday, August 26, 2011


Directed by Randall Wallace.
2010. Rated PG, 123 minutes.
Diane Lane
John Malkovich
Margo Martindale
Otto Thorwarth
Nelsan Ellis
James Cromwell
Fred Dalton Thompson
Dylan Walsh
Nestor Serrano
Scott Glenn

Secretariat is a Disney sports movie. That’s probably enough information for you to decide whether or not you should watch it, or not. However, in the interest of pontification I’ll drive on. Oh, alright. I promise I’ll keep this as short as my long-windedness will allow. For the kids who probably have no clue, this is based on the true story of the horse of the same name. For parents, this means you can thank whatever higher power you believe in that the horse doesn’t talk. This isn’t a remake of Racing Stripes.

Mr. Chenery (Glenn) owns a horse farm. His wife has just died and the place is losing money because he’s apparently too senile to run the joint. His daughter Penny (Lane), who is a housewife living in another state, steps in. Pretty soon she discovers that one of her mares is about to have a baby with some serious bloodlines. Shortly after that, she starts banking on that horse to save the family business by doing nothing less than winning horse racing’s Triple Crown (The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and The Belmont Stakes). No horse had accomplished this feat in over three decades. Along the way, she hires Lucien Laurin (Malkovich), an ornery trainer with no fashion sense and Ronnie Turcotte (Thorwarth), an ornery jockey with extra…um…orner?

The plot bounces from one race to the next and does precisely what it wants to do. It makes us root for a small group of people who’s hopes and dreams are riding on the back of a horse in the most literal sense. It also makes the horse enough of a character for us to root for him also. It does this by sticking to the tried and true Disney formula. These guys are no dummies. No sense in reinventing the wheel when you have dozens of wheels to replicate.

Diane Lane and John Malkovich are fun to watch. The script does a nice job mixing the story about the horse with the one about the humans. There is humor sprinkled throughout and of course, there’s the tear-jerker/stand up and cheer moment. It refuses to break from the mold. Other than that, it really doesn’t do anything wrong, just not original. It’s clean, wholesome fun for the whole family. They’ll probably enjoy it even if they’ve already seen a bunch of movies just like it.

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