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Randall Wallace
Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, James Cromwell, Margo Martindale, Nelsan Ellis, Otto Thorwarth, Fred Dalton Thompson
Writing Credits:
Mike Rich, William Nack (book, "Secretariat: The Making of a Champion")

The Impossible True Story.

Disney presents an astonishing true story bursting with hope, heart, and courage. Diane Lane and John Malkovich lead a celebrated cast in this inspirational motion picture from the producers of Miracle, Invincible and The Rookie.

Behind every legend lies an impossible dream. Witness the spectacular journey of an incredible horse named Secretariat and the moving story of his unlikely owner, a housewife who risked everything to make him a champion. Out of the gate with never-before-seen bonus features, Secretariat is hours of pulse-pounding entertainment for the whole family!

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$12.694 million on 3072 screens.
Domestic Gross
$59.053 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 1/25/2011

• Audio Commentary with Director Randall Wallace
• “Heart of a Champion” Featurette
• “Choreographing the Races” Featurette
• “A Director’s Inspiration: A Conversation with the Real Penny Chenery” Featurette
• Seven Deleted Scenes
• Music Video
• Multi-Angle Simulation
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy of the Film


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Secretariat [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 14, 2011)

When friends ask me what I thought of a movie I’ve not seen for a while, my default answer tends to be “look on the site”. I don’t say this to be a jerk – well, not usually – but I do so because I can’t recall my opinions. I see so many flicks that while I might maintain a memory of like/dislike, specifics often elude me, so it’s easier to just read my reviews to get a handle on my specific movie-related feelings.

Of course, this goes nowhere for films I never reviewed. Into this category fell 2003’s Seabiscuit, a flick I saw theatrically but never checked out on home video. I maintain a recollection that I didn’t much care for the movie, but I couldn’t tell you much more; I didn’t dig it but I don’t remember why.

Such a vague negative opinion made me a little reluctant to check out 2010’s Secretariat, as it seemed likely that another movie about another legendary racehorse might not be my cup of tea. Still, I don’t think my disenchantment with Seabiscuit was genre-specific, so I figured the newer flick was worth a look.

The flick opens in 1969 and introduces us to housewife Penny Chenery Tweedy (Diane Lane). Her mother dies and she heads back home to take care of the estate for her father Chris Chenery (Scott Glenn); he runs a horse breeding operation but has too many mental lapses these days to make it work effectively.

Penny intends to stay on long enough to simply stabilize the business, and she hires eccentric trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) to tend to a new arrival: a horse eventually named Secretariat. He’s a stubborn beast but he has tremendous potential so Penny remains much more involved in the racing world than intended. We follow his rise through the ranks as well as the impact Penny’s work has on her family life.

Some factually based sports stories are easier to tell than others due to audience unfamiliarity with the source material. For instance, 2010’s The Fighter will come with surprises for much of the crowd because most folks will know little to nothing about boxer Micky Ward. That allows for the audience to develop a certain investment that might not be there if they know where things will go.

This seems like a particular concern with Secretariat, an athlete who trounced the competition during the Triple Crown races. How do you provoke tension from a horse who won all his competitions so easily?

In this case, you attempt to wring as much from the personal lives and behind the scenes elements as possible. And in this case, you essentially fail, as the movie’s character themes drag and stumble.

This occurs largely because the entire movie feels so intensely “paint by numbers”. We’ve seen many a flick like this in the past, especially from the Disney stable. The film’s biggest surprise comes from the absence of a Jerry Bruckheimer credit, as it feels like something from his production company; Secretariat fits in neatly along with efforts such as Glory Road and Remember the Titans.

While the latter could be trite, it still managed to be pretty rousing. That quality fails to appear during the limp narration of Secretariat. Director Randall Wallace never threatens to take a chance or doing anything vaguely original. He develops the tale along utterly standard, predictable lines that nearly smothers any potential drama.

The script doesn’t help. Filled with platitudes and aphorisms, Secretariat often feels less like a movie and more like a collection of inspirational posters. I half-expected someone to tell Penny to “hang in there, baby”.

I can’t fault the production values here, as everything about Secretariat remains consistently professional. It also comes with a solid cast, though not a single one gets a real character to play. The movie has potential but simply lacks the spirit to make it something more than a nondescript inspirational tale.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Secretariat appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a consistently fine presentation.

Sharpness usually seemed strong. A few slightly soft shots materialized, but the vast majority of the flick demonstrated good delineation. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. Source flaws also didn’t create any distractions, as the flick lacked defects.

Given its period setting, I expected a subdued palette from Secretariat, and it went along the anticipated lines. The flick featured a fairly sepia-oriented tone. Within that, the colors seemed fine. A few brighter tones occasionally emerged – primarily via Lucien’s garish outfits – and the hues were depicted well. Blacks were dense and dark, while shadows came across as smooth and clear. Across the board, I felt pleased with the picture.

While not a slam-bang mix, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Secretariat provided reasonably vivid accompaniment to the action. The soundfield created a good sense of atmosphere. Music offered nice stereo delineation, and the effects formed a feeling of place and setting.

Some scenes such as those with aircraft or storms opened up the room in a decent manner, but the majority of the soundscape’s most involving material revolved around horses and racing. Those sequences made nice use of all the channels and moved things about the spectrum well. Those scenes added the most pizzazz to the package.

Audio quality was good. Speech always remained crisp and concise, while music fared well. The score sounded rich and full at all times. Effects seemed accurate and dynamic, and they boasted nice low-end response when necessary. I felt this qualified as a “B” soundtrack.

When we head to extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Randall Wallace. He offers a running, screen-specific look at what brought him to the project, story/character/script notes, cast and performances, sets and locations, cinematography, shooting the race sequences, music and editing, and some other filmmaking areas.

Like the movie itself, the commentary provides a pretty perfunctory piece. Wallace covers all the appropriate beats and gives us a reasonably good examination of the movie, but the track never becomes particularly fascinating. Wallace delivers a more than competent piece, though, so it’s worth a listen.

Three featurettes follow. Heart of a Champion runs 14 minutes, 56 seconds and offers notes from Wallace, Penny Chenery, Secretariat.com’s Leonard Lusky, exercise riders Jim Gafney and Charlie Davis, writer Bill Nack, Claiborne Farms owner Seth Hancock, and actors Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Nestor Serrano, Keith Austin, Otto Thorwarth and Nelsan Ellis. “Heart” looks at the real Secretariat and tells us of his racing career. This is a quick overview but it’s useful, especially since we see a lot of actual race footage.

Choreographing the Races lasts six minutes, 27 seconds, and features Wallace, Thorwarth, Austin, Nack, Lane, producer Mark Ciardi, horse wrangler Rusty Hendrickson, and actor Kevin Connolly. We get a quick look at the creation of the movie’s race sequences. Some nice footage emerges, but the piece seems too brief and perfunctory; it’s more about telling us how good the race scenes are than about letting us know how they were created.

Finally, A Director’s Inspiration: A Conversation with the Real Penny Chenery goes for 21 minutes, 12 seconds and features a chat between Wallace and Chenery. We hear about her life and reflections about episodes depicted in the film. I like the emphasis on Chenery’s experiences and think the featurette adds a good layer of introspection to the movie.

Seven Deleted Scenes occupy a total of . We find an “Alternate Opening” (1:18), “Memories” (1:01), “Introduction” (0:41), “’Are You a Golfer?’” (1:52), “Seth Joins the Team” (1:02), “No Time to Rest” (2:27) and “Too Soon to Celebrate” (1:47). Most are a bit on the dull side, though “Golfer” is amusing and “Rest” provides a little more depth to Penny’s family relationship. None of them seem vaguely momentous, though, so I don’t think the movie loses anything due to their omission.

We can view the scenes with or without commentary from Wallace. He tells us about the sequences and lets us know why he eliminated them. Wallace covers the segments in a positive manner. A 40-second intro from Wallace also appears to set up the cut footage.

Next comes a Music Video for AJ Michalka’s “It’s Who You Are”. In the video, we see movie clips and shots of Michalka as she flounces around a stable. Michalka’s attractive, but this is a dull video for a sappy song.

An interesting component arrives via a Multi-Angle Simulation. We see a computer simulation of the 1973 Preakness and can view it with notes from jockey Michael Smith (3:43), reporter Brad Free (5:09), historian/Preakness owner Dennis Mills (3:35), and spectator Mike Calderone (4:14). We can also check out footage of the actual race (2:12). All of these components combine to give us a nice view of the race, though the play-by-play of the real Preakness stands as the best part.

The disc opens with ads for Tangled and DisneyNature: African Cats. These also appear under Sneak Peeks along with promos for The Incredibles, Cars 2, Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure, The Lion King, Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension and SpookyBuddies: The Curse of the Howlloween Hound. No trailer for Secretariat appears here.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Secretariat. This throws in a few extras, so it’s not a totally bare-bones rendition. For folks without Blu-ray players, it helps “future proof” their investment.

Despite a potentially interesting subject, Secretariat falls flat. It takes its topic and strips it of drama and emotion; instead, we end up with a trite, tame tale. The Blu-ray provides excellent picture quality as well as good audio and supplements. While I think this is a nice release, the movie is never better than mediocre.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1666 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main