|Secretariat movie poster, property of Walt Disney Pictures.|
Our roommate Ryan got special advanced screening tickets to this movie weeks before it was released. She went with her mother, since both are huge horse racing fans. Ryan's mom remembers watching the horse race on television, following his story on the news. The horse captivated America in the 1970s. People who never watched a horse race before were suddenly intrigued by this amazing horse Secretariat.
And after watching the movie, I can see why. He won the Triple Crown in 1973, a feat that many in the business almost thought to be impossible anymore. And he was incredibly fast, breaking many track records and even world records. The movie ends with Secretariat winning at Belmont by 31 lengths! Astounding!
So it's no exaggeration to say that Secretariat was one of the greatest racehorses ever. However, to say that this movie was one of the greatest... now that's a stretch. Sorry, Roger Ebert, no matter how much nostalgia this film may evoke for the horse's many fans (including yourself) does not make it a four-star movie.
The story of Secretariat and his owner Penny Tweedy (played by Diane Lane) is quite inspirational. It genuinely is. The woman's father was a horse breeder, and after his death they need to save the farm. But instead of merely selling it, she wants to bring it to life again. When Secretariat is born, she realizes his potential in being a great racehorse and decides to invest all of her time and money into this dream, with her head held high and all the world against her. That's powerful stuff right? The problem with the movie though, is that the writers (Mike Rich and William Nack) seem to think that the story isn't really all that inspiring and they need to inject it with millions of over-dramatic speeches. The result is a Lifetime Original Movie.
These "motivating" monologues all push the theme too much, and make it hard to swallow. The horse-whispering scenes and sappy score instead of bringing tears to my eyes made me roll them, and some odd "I'm gonna kick your ass" stare-downs between Secretariat and his opponent Sham all made me laugh. The storyline involving her radical, anti-war daughter was very diluted (about as real as a kid dressing up as a hippie for Halloween) and there just wasn't enough dimension to any of the characters.
Not even a horse would choke down something this sickeningly sweet.
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