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Fri, May 24

Reel Watchers: Secretariat

Life is ahead of you and you have to run at it." An inspirational or clichéd line? Disney's latest offering, Secretariat, is a bit of both.

Based on William Nack's novel "Secretariat: The Making of a Champion," the film recalls the true story of the legendary 1973 Triple Crown winner and his unconventional owner. Diane Lane portrays Penny Chenery, a reserved Denver housewife who takes over the reins of a Virginia horse breeding farm once run by her dementia-stricken father. By the toss of a coin, Chenery wins the rights to an unborn foal with promising bloodlines. The birth of Secretariat marks Chenery's personal rebirth as well. With steely determination, the inexperienced racehorse owner bets the farm on the success of its rising star, never losing faith in the horse nicknamed "Big Red" while rediscovering faith in herself along the way.

Diane Lane's portrayal of Penny Chenery is as impeccable as her character's spot-on early '70's wardrobe. John Malkovich provides comic relief as horse trainer Lucien Laurin, although his likable character is thinly drawn beyond his bad taste in clothes. Additional minor roles are filled by veteran actors James Cromwell, Scott Glenn and Fred Dalton Thompson. Their combined credentials give the film integrity but not much else. Margo Martindale delivers some charming character actress moments as Chenery's loyal assistant.

While Secretariat lacks the depth and dramatic punch of other horse racing films (e.g. Seabiscuit), there is no denying the cinematic intensity of the racetrack scenes. Although the outcomes of the races are well known, the superb footage makes the heart race, the goose bumps rise and the audience cheer. Like many Disney films, Secretariat is an enjoyable feel-good movie with a few solid performances. I give it 3 out of 4 miners.


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