¨This is not about going back. This is about life being ahead of you and you run at it. Because you never know how far you can run unless you run.¨
Secretariat is one of those rare sports movies that manages to hook your attention and maintain the suspense despite knowing how it will turn out at the end. It`s impossible not to fall in love with this horse and his story. Disney was the right choice for the production of this film considering their success with other family friendly sport films like Remember the Titans. Secretariat was voted as one of the best athletes of the century (number one on the list if we don`t count human performances), and several of his records still stand to this very day nearly 40 years later. His story had to be told in film as Secretariat is considered to be the best racehorse of all time. The story involving his owner, Penny Chenery, and how she saved her ailing father`s stable risking everything (including her marriage) and betting it on the horse just adds to the overall dramatic effect of the plot. Secretariat reminded me a lot of another good racehorse film: Seabiscuit. I wouldn`t say this is a better movie, it`s different, but I can say that Secretariat was a better racehorse that won the most important races, including the Triple Crown in 1973 (a feat that hadn`t been accomplished in 25 years). Randall Wallace (writer of Braveheart and director of We Were Soldiers) did a good job with the direction of this film, despite being better known as a screenplay writer. The screenplay for Secretariat was written by Mike Rick, which was adapted from William Nack`s book about the large chestnut colt nicknamed ¨Big Red.¨
Diane Lane is Penny Chenery, a mother of four and housewife who`s life changes after her mother`s death and a visit to their stable based in Virginia. Penny`s father used to be the brains of the entire operation in Meadow Stables, but with the death of his wife and his illness things are going downhill at the stable. Penny decides to change things around in order to save the stable and begins by firing their trainer who seems to be making some unfavorable deals with other owners by trying to sell their horses at a much lower value. Penny with the help of the family`s trustworthy secretary, Miss Ham (played humorously by Margo Martindale) begins managing the place. The first smart move she makes is breeding one of her horses: Somethingroyal with a famous Thoroughbred racehorse named Bold Ruler. The result was the birth of the large chestnut colt nicknamed ¨Big Red¨, but better known in the horseracing world as Secretariat. Penny hires Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) as the trainer and Ron Turcotte (Otto Thorwarth) as the jockey, and along with the groom, Eddie Sweet (Nelsan Ellis) together they form a great team and foster the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. Of course the movie can`t be successful if it doesn`t have some drama in it, and so some problems surface back home with Penny`s husband, Jack Tweedy (Dylan Walsh), because running a stable back in Virginia has affected Penny with her housewife duties. Somehow Penny has to manage saving the stable in a macho dominated society and maintain her family together, while risking everything on one horse: Secretariat.
Secretariat succeeds as a film because the story is just so powerful and uplifting. The movie deals with overcoming difficult odds and following one`s dream. Penny had a good life as a housewife, but all this had led her far away from her early goal of following her father`s footsteps and managing the Meadow Stables. Once the opportunity presents itself to her she quickly takes on the difficult task and decides to follow her long life dream. Secretariat teaches us that it`s never too late to follow one`s dreams and overcome difficult situations. Disney has always been good at reminding us how important it is to fight for our dreams. Life is a race and if we don’t wake up in time our dreams and goals might just end in that: only dreams and we will never achieve anything if we don`t take risks in order to live out our dreams. Penny took the risk and bet it all on Secretariat who didn`t fail her. The story of this colt is just amazing and inspiring. The final scene where he is racing at the Belmont Stakes is just mesmerizing and left me full of goose bumps. Secretariat was such an amazing horse, and his story is done justice in this family friendly film. It is a strong, memorable movie that teaches us some important lessons while at the same time never ceases to entertain it`s audience. The performances in this movie are also great. Diane Lane as Penny and John Malkovich as Lucien give memorable and fun performances. Secretariat is a movie for the entire family to enjoy.