Secretariat

Posted on January 24, 2011 at 8:00 am

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language
Profanity: Brief mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Tense scenes, family conflicts, sad death
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: October 8, 2010
Date Released to DVD: January 25, 2011
Amazon.com ASIN: B004DK5CW4

This is the story of two champions. One is the most celebrated horse of the 20th century, the only non-human athlete to be included on Sport’s Illustrated’s 1999 list of the top 100 athletes of the last hundred years for achieving one of the most sought-after titles in sports, the racing triple crown, with records unbroken decades later.

The other was the housewife who won him by being on the losing side of a coin toss.

Secretariat, called “Red” by everyone but the officials and record-keepers, was a winner from his very first moments, when he astonished the small group who observed his birth by standing up more quickly than any foal they had ever seen.

His owner was a bit more of a long shot. Penny Chenery Tweedy was a housewife and full-time mother when she took over what she and her family thought of as temporary management of her ailing father’s farm. The farm was in trouble. Its one asset was the upcoming coin toss to determine which of two foals about to be born would remain with the farm, and which would go to the owner of the stud horse. Penny (Diane Lane) lost the coin toss but won the horse she wanted, bred for both speed and stamina. She called him Red.

Director Randall Wallace knows how to make an audience cheer (he wrote “Braveheart” and wrote and directed “We Were Soldiers”). By focusing on the least likely character to succeed and the challenges she faced, he adds some tension to the story. We know Secretariat is going to win, but do not know whether Penny will be able to keep him, or how her decision to take over the farm will affect her family. And he introduces us to Secretariat’s team, played by a superb supporting cast. John Malkcovich adds flair as Quebecois trainer Lucien Laurin, who “dresses like Superfly and is trying to retire.” Senator/”Law & Order” star Fred Dalton Thompson plays mentor Bull Hancock with just the right avuncular rumble. Margo Martindale, one of those know-her-face-but-don’t-know-her-name character actors, delivers the perfect combination of asperity and loyalty as the devoted assistant who came up with the name Secretariat. Newcomer Otto Thorwarth shows us why the right jockey matters so much, and “True Blood’s” Nelsan Ellis is enormously moving as the man who spent more time with the triple-crown-winner than anyone else. And what a pleasure, as always, to see the exquisite Diane Lane, at last in a role worthy of her talent and beauty. In this movie, she is the champion who gets to run the race she was born for.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a true story Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Sports

6 Replies to “Secretariat”

  1. Great review, Nell. I was nuts about horses as a teen, and watched the Triple Crown every year. Except one. That was the year Secretariat won all three races. For some reason, I was no where near a television set for any of the three legs of the race, and I was crushed. But, of course, I got to see instant replays of the race. What a great horse, and a great story.
    I definitely plan to see this. Perhaps there is a mini-John Malkovich resurgence, since he is also co-starring in “Red”?

  2. Thanks, Alicia. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And you will see some footage from one of the three triple crown races in the film — I really love the way each race is presented differently to keep it exciting.

  3. I loved the fact that they showed the real Penney Chenerey Tweedy at the last race scene. Before I even knew who it was, her face drew me. Such life and excitement in it! I wondered ‘who is that woman?’
    I was not as enthralled with John Malkovich’s ‘French’ accent. He sounded about like me, who had French in high school 40 years ago or so. It’s a good thing he muttered his French lines, because I think his accent was pretty lame.
    This movie exceeded my expectations, as I expected it to be a letdown compared to the other great horse movie in the last few years, ‘Seabiscuit.’ Both horses were amazing atheletes. Wouldn’t it be something to see both of them in a race with Man O’War. Experts could say who would/should win, but with the great hearts of these racing giants, who knows.

  4. I didn’t see an minimum age recommendation on this post. Did you stop doing that? I didn’t see a letter grade rating either. I really appreciated your ratings and age recommendations. That’s one of the reasons I recommend your site to other parents. We can read a review anywhere, but to get an honest (and appropriate) grade and age recommendation is rare 😉

  5. Thanks, Dawn — that was a technical error on my part and it should be fixed now. I really appreciate your letting me know — and appreciate even more your kind words.

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