The tried and tested Disney formula for heart-warming stories about inspirational animals finds an ideal subject in the true story of Secretariat, a horse who improbably won the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing back in 1973.
Given that, being a horse, Secretariat doesn’t have much to say for himself, director Randall Wallace focuses on the horse’s owner instead. Denver mom Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), who hires sartorially challenged trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) to provide her with a winner. While her family threatens to implode due to the influence of the flower-power revolution on her teenage daughters, Secretariat’s overtly moralistic story focuses on how Penny and Lucien’s single-minded determination overcame the odds, as Penny bets her farm on track success.
With the outcome never in doubt, screenwriter Mike Rich (The Rookie, The Nativity Story), working from William Nack’s book, offers up a decently mounted but somewhat stale rehash of Seabiscuit, complete with a gallery of two dimensional supporting characters, from deferential groom Eddie (True Blood’s Nelsan Ellis) to Penny’s unbelieving husband (Dylan Baker) and her raddled old dad (Scott Glenn). Directing his first feature, previous screenwriter and producer Wallace films the various races with vigour, but precious little eye for scale or composition – metronomically cross-cutting between extreme close-up shots of hooves and Penny’s hopeful, tearful face. In any racing form book, Secretariat certainly has the pedigree of a winner, but in the annals of sports movies, he’s a donkey.
General release from Fri 3 Dec.