The "greatest racehorse of all time" mantle fits easily around the neck of Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner. So why not a movie version of this champion's life?Secretariatbegins in the late '60s, with some good behind-the-scenes material on how thoroughbreds come to be (there's flavorful atmosphere inside the horsey world, including an account of Secretariat's ownership being decided by a coin flip as part of an old-school agreement). A highly lacquered Diane Lane plays Penny Chenery, the inheritor of her father's stables, who segues from being an all-American mom to running a major horse-racing franchise; reliable character-actor support comes in the form of John Malkovich, as a gaudily outfitted trainer, and Margo Martindale, as Chenery's assistant. Screenwriter Mike Rich and director Randall Wallace must do some heavy lifting to make Lane's privileged millionaire into some sort of underdog--luckily, the hidebound traditions of the male-dominated racing scene provide some sources of outrage. The need to stack the deck even more leads the movie into its more contrived scenes, unfortunately, as though we needed dastardly villains in order to root for Penny and her horse. Meanwhile, attempts to reach for a littleSeabiscuit-style social relevance don't come off, and a curious religious undertone might make you wonder whether we're meant to assume that God chose Secretariat over some less-deserving equine. The actual excitement of the races can't be denied, however, and Secretariat's awe-inspiring win at the Belmont Stakes remains a jaw-dropping, still-unequaled display of domination in that event. And maybe in sports.--Robert Horton
Opens October 8, 2010
Based on the impossible true story, SECRETARIAT chronicles the spectacular journey of the 1973 Triple Crown winner. Housewife and mother Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) agrees to take over her ailing father’s Virginia-based Meadow Stables, despite her lack of horse-racing knowledge. Against all odds, Chenery—with the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich)—manages to navigate the male-dominated business, ultimately fostering the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years and what may be the greatest racehorse of all time.
Whether you know the full story and the whole history or not, 'Secretariat' is a terrific family movie. This Disney film zeroes in on the horse and its owner, Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) in a way that makes us care deeply about both. The pensive moments marvelously frame the most exciting scenes, and Lane is pitch perfect as the beleaguered woman who must face debtors, relatives, competitors, and the media in the face of a dream that could cost her everything. Director Randall Wallace knows how to … more
*** out of **** "Secretariat" is the kind of "based-on-a-true-story" film which never uses that phrase as a gimmick or a way to make money. The film is purely craft, and is about ten times better than you would expect it to be. I went into the film wondering how good it would be. I kind of expected it to be fairly forgettable, sappy, and corny. As it turns out, "Secretariat" is neither of those things. In fact, it's a completely enjoyable, well-acted, and well-made drama. … more
Denver housewife Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) takes over her father's horse racing empire when he falls ill, commuting to Virginia to take care of the farm. Having grown up in the racing world, she knows about bloodlines and invests all her efforts in young Big Red, soon to be renamed Secretariat. She hires a good, but retired trainer (John Malkovich) and soon the horse is headed for the Triple Crown. Secretariat was arguably the best race horse ever and deserved a good … more
I know how movies like this are supposed to work, and this time, it doesn't bother me one bit. "Secretariat," in the tradition of recent films like "The Blind Side," "Invictus," and "The Longshots," adapts a true story into a reliable but successful inspirational sports drama. I admit that I knew nothing of the real Secretariat before seeing ads for the film, and I still know nothing about horseracing. However, I do know a good movie when I see one (although … more
I don't have to see this flick to know that it's another formulaic, dull as dishwater movie in which a plucky woman needs to save the farm and a crusty old trainer who comes out of retirement to help her do the impossible. Now all we need is a troubled jockey who needs redemption and we'll have all the cliches covered. They've been doing this crap since the days of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Oh yeah. There might be a horse in there somewhere too. When … more