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.
The last major studio release about horseracing was "Seabiscuit" way back in 2001(that's 49 years in horse life), so I guess it's time we once again learn just how difficult it is to own, train and race thoroughbreds. Ever notice how these films are always about the underdogs, never the multi-millionaires? Well, the twist here is that the lead isn't a desperate man. It's about a desperate woman and she's played very well by the gifted Lane.
I have never had an interest in gambling. I've never even been to Las Vegas. So seeing a movie about horseracing isn't going to tempt me to go to the track. But I want to be sensitive to those who struggle with a gambling addiction. No movie is worth being tempted toward self-destruction. Got a problem with gambling? Then don't go to this film.
That said, "Secretariat" (PG) is not about financial gain (that's how we know it's a movie, not real life). While wagering is central to horseracing in the real world, it is not a focal point to this film. It's about surviving, overcoming, caring and faith in what you believe.
Though a great deal of the dialogue is heavy-handed, sometimes even corny, still the film is uplifting, and downright satisfying.
"Life As We Know It," "Stone" and "It's Kind of a Funny Story" open this weekend, but if you are looking for a film that energizes, engrosses and thoroughly entertains, this one is the real thoroughbred.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective for Baptist Press and is the author of "Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Really, Really Bad," available on Amazon.com. He also writes about Hollywood for previewonline.org. Secretariat is rated PG for brief mild language. Intended audience: family.
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