{2jtab: Movie Review}

Secretariat Movie Review


3 stars

Whereas 2003’s Seabiscuit won gold for its story about an undersized horse that carried a troubled jockey’s emotional baggage and lifted the spirits of a nation paralyzed by the Great Depression, Secretariat is the story of a horse that wasn’t small, outmatched or expected to lose. And that’s where the film’s makers faced their biggest challenge: to craft a compelling sports story about a horse that wasn’t an underdog.

Secretariat won 1973’s Triple Crown in such stunning fashion (we won’t give it away here), it’s still difficult to watch those grainy Youtube videos without getting a soggy lump in the sports throat. Fortunately for Screenwriter Mike Rich and director Randall Wallace, the horse wrote the story’s most impactful moment. So, how to build an entire movie around that single 2 minute and 24 second feat? Feature a strong-willed female horse owner hoping to beat men at their own game.

Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) is a Denver housewife with four kids forced to take over the family’s Virginia horse farm when her mother dies and father falls ill. Unknowledgeable of what it takes to run a horse farm and mostly isolated from the good-old-boy mentality that permeates the industry, the headstrong matriarch calls upon her education in business administration, and immerses herself in breeding books with hopes of saving the struggling farm from financial ruin. She fires the farm’s long-time trainer and hopes the birth of Big Red, later named Secretariat, will be the break she needs.

With a new trainer, Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich), in place and an unproven jockey aboard, the rest is history as Secretariat eventually goes on to win the 1973 Triple Crown.

Secretariat is a Disney movie through and through. Its heroic story of transcendence - of people and animals achieving more than anyone thought possible - has been hit early and often by the studio throughout the years. That’s not a knock however, due to the strong emotional impact and surprise carried by the climactic feat. The film does lack a lot of the high drama of Seabiscuit though, as it’s a bit less gritty and is driven more by Disney's trademarked push-button emotionality.

Penny's affluent background actually steals a bit of the story's thunder. She doesn’t come from a poor, broken family, nor does she really have anything to prove. But Lane’s depiction of the push of feminism and of a woman going up against the male-dominated racing establishment provides just enough fuel to drive the back story. An attempt to draw emotion from the country’s entrenchment in the Vietnam War feels rather hokey and contrived, however. 2002’s Miracle did a much better job of drenching its story in a palpable atmosphere by peppering the procedings with historical references to keep the audience grounded in an authentic time and place.

To say that Secretariat deserves mention alongside such memorable sports movie greats as Bull Durham, Brian’s Song or Seabiscuit - or even that it is a great movie of any genre - is certainly a stretch. But like most Disney features, it is an inspirational event that will touch everyone. Even though we already know the outcome of the race – and that we understand the significance of the achievement - Secretariat still promises to entertain, educate and to never let us forget how a remarkable horse (and a driven lady) exceeded all expectations and changed history forever.


{2jtab: Film Info}

Secretariat Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language.
Director: Randall Wallace
: Mike Rich
Cast: Diane Lane, John Malkovich; James Cromwell
Genre: Drama | Sports
Tagline: The Impossible True Story
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Memorable Movie Quote:
"To run a horse breeding operation, you need a certain touch, and you're a housewife."
Release Date: October 8, 2010.
Blu-ray Release Date:
January 25, 2011

Synopsis: Based on the remarkable 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.


{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Details}

Secretariat Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars
4 stars
Blu-ray Experience
3.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - January 21, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy; BD-Live



  • Feature-length audio commentary with director Randall Wallace

Special Features:

  • Secretariat Multi-Angle Simulation (HD, 19 minutes)
  • Heart of a Champion (HD, 15 minutes)
  • A Director's Inspiration (HD, 21 minutes)
  • Choreographing the Races (HD, 6 minutes)

Deleted Scenes:

    • Deleted Scenes with Optional Director's Commentary (HD, 10 minutes)

    Music Video (HD, 4 minutes): AJ Michalka sings "It's Who You Are."

    Trailer Navigation (HD)


    {2jtab: Trailer}