Monday, February 07, 2011


Secretariat is the amazing story of a horse that, beyond all odds, went on to win the Triple Crown in 1973. The last prong of the Triple Crown, the Belmont, was won by an astonishing 31 lengths, a feat that hasn’t been repeated. It’s an amazing story, but this is not an amazing movie.

Penny Tweedy Chenery goes back home to the family ranch in Virginia when her mother dies. She discovers that her father is quickly slipping into Alzheimer’s, and the ranch is not doing well financially. Penny takes over the ranch, and in an odd arrangement her father had made, gets in a coin toss a seemingly uninspiring foal. She finds a trainer that no one else seems willing to hire, and a jockey that takes chances, and, with her family bucking against her, puts all her faith in Big Red – known professionally as Secretariat – a faith which proves well deserved.

An interesting piece of the story is how a woman managed to get her own way in a very male-dominated business. And that part of the story is told with authority and a sense of humor. However, and I suspect it’s to fill the two-hour-long space, Penny’s dialogue is full of platitudes. The dialogue is amazingly bland and uninspiring even though the story itself is not.

The rest of the cast is wonderful for the most part. John Malcovich as trainer Lucien Laurin seems a little crazy, a little crafty. Together the woman who shouldn’t be there and a trainer who’s not wanted elsewhere work together to take the risks that produce a winner.

Take a look at the extras in the DVD. You’ll see the real Penny Tweedy Chenery and the real Secretariat, and that twosome is a sight to behold. While the movie could stand a better script, it's a great story. Thumb's up.