Triple Crown Horse Third Rate Movie


15 October 2010| No Comments on Secretariat     by Sean Chavel


Secretariat is a noble effort but it doesn’t work well as a consistently pleasing entertainment. Director Randall Wallace can’t keep track of why we came to his movie in the first place, for the love of the horse that would become the 1973 Triple Crown winner. In particular, there are no real close-up encounters with a horse for the beginning half hour. Benefits are certain: the golden hue cinematography puts you in the mood to bask in Kentucky sun. But the indecisive storytelling is lumpy and mawkish. We get sucked into family turmoil when we should be enchanted by the horse. On a slow Saturday afternoon you might be able to fix your eyes on the screen for this but you need an open heart for schmaltz.

In Denver 1969, housewife Penny Tweedy (Diane Lane) takes over her incapacitated father’s (Scott Glenn, motionless) horse stables. This new venture serves as a distraction, according to her peevish husband Jack (Dylan Tweedy), nor does it involve the children either. Penny has the belief that she can make a thoroughbred racehorse out of one of her stable ponies. That horse will become Secretariat. Lane is pretty and proud, ambitious and determined for an otherwise prim and proper mid-west woman.

John Malkovich is a hoot with his ad-libs as the trainer Lucien Laurin, and yet at the same time, one is not convinced that Malkovich has ever rode a horse. Margo Martindale is Miss Ham and Nelsan Ellis is Eddie Sweat, two of Tweedy’s associates. Otto Thorwarth in his acting debut is the jockey Ronnie Turcotte. Dylan Baker plays Penny’s disbelieving brother Hollis who complains of family debt. James Cromwell is a potential investor who refuses to pay top dollar and thus bails. Dozens of other stuffed shirts play snooty Kentuckians.

What it comes down to is a semi-boring film about the world’s greatest racehorse when a horse of this pedigree deserved an exciting chronicle – the whole thing has been Disney-fied. The actors do more huffing and puffing than the horse, and some of the lesser cast members make arbitrary walk-ons and exits. The filming on Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky derby, is an appreciated site. Another track stood in for the Belmont Park in New York. Wallace and his cinematographer Dean Semler do their best for the races themselves not to whizz by, they supply visual vigor. See “The Black Stallion” (1980) and “Seabiscuit” (2003) however for more satisfying, rhapsodic horseplay.

123 Minutes. Rated PG.


Film Cousins: “National Velvet” (1944); “The Black Stallion” (1980); “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” (1991); “Seabiscuit” (2003).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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