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Preview review: 'Secretariat' tries to sneak up on the blind side

April 29, 2010 | 12:44 pm

Diane-Lane-and-John-Malkovich-in-SECRETARIAT_jpgAt a Disney meet and greet last week, Chairman Rich Ross gushed over the company's October release "Secretariat," saying the film tells a "very impactful" story and "sends a signal of what we believe Disney is and what Disney can be."

But the trailer sends a slightly different signal:  that of a dubious TV movie.

The movie is based on the "impossible true story" of homemaker Penny (Diane Lane), who seizes control of her father's stables when he falls ill. Though Penny doesn't know a lot about horses, she employs famous trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich), and the two are able to bring one horse to racing glory.

We're really not fans of the voice-over that Lane narrates as the preview begins, as she extols the virtues of horses. "In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground," she says as we see hoofs clomp fiercely around the race track. She sounds like a mother excitedly reading her children a bedtime story, and we're not all that jazzed about the tale we're about to hear.

Lane's physical appearance in the trailer is also troublesome. She's decked out an unattractive poofy wig which looks very unnatural. But her face also looks bizarre, as if the makeup department was trying to age her with too much bronzer and wrinkle cover-up. As the faithful horse trainer, Malkovich looks like he'll bring a welcome bit of comic relief to the film. We like the wacky colorful outfits he's decked out in, and he seems goofy enough to lighten the more serious overtones.

"Secretariat" seems to feed into the popular "Blind Side" subgenre,  an inspirational sports story based on real-life events involving a spitfire mom. As the trailer reminds us, the movie is also from the producers of  tearjerkers such as "Miracle," "Invincible," and "The Rookie," just in case you weren't sure what to expect. Unfortunately for a film that's trying so hard to be moving, we weren't all that moved.

-- Amy Kaufman

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Photo: Diane Lane and John Malkovich star in "Secretariat." Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

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Looks horrible, and the animals used look nothing like Secretariat. I don't think Secretariat and his connections have quite the same 'story' as Seabiscuit's did -- there's not enough story for a movie there. And it's got the full-on Disney sap treatment -- this die-hard racetrack fan will be staying away.

I was ten years old the year that Secretariat won the Triple Crown. Like so many girls, I was horse crazy and I remember how good I felt about him. The trailer evoked some of the same excitement that I remember feeling from that time. It doesn't have to be anything earth shattering to be a good story. I think that it will appeal to many ages.

Let's hope the producers haven't "Disney-ified" the story of a true champion horse, Secretariat. Horseracing is a business and Penny Chenery Tweedy is one of the foremost pioneering ladies of the sport. Honor the horse, admire the woman and provide the viewers with unwavering inspiration.

Secretariat was a freak of nature...with his 22 pound heart, (most have a 16 pd.). But I'll bet they don't ever mention that in the movie. Sure, he still holds the Belmont track record for 1 1/2 mi. but Seattle Slew would have toyed with him like he did with Affirm in '78. Should have made a realistic Seattle Slew movie...Much More interesting story, with the Taylors and what a record!!! But, I'll see anything horse-racing at the movies, even though it's never realistic. There are so many factors in a race...jockey, trainer, farrier, track conditions, size of the field, strenghth of competition...etc. And what about FIXED races. It definitly happens...I know by experience!!!

Um,who ever wrote this is crazy. Its a movie about the greatest racehorse ever, its going to be freaking awsome. I can not wait for thisi! Its going to be AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!! Who gives a crap if there's a poofy wig envolved.

As a longtime personal friend of Penny Chenery and a Turf writer, I object to the tone of this story. I think Diane Lane did a terrific job and so does Penny. The hairstyle reflects the time and really gives Diane the look and feel of Penny, who is one of the strongest women I know. She was and is a trailblazer with an indomitable spirit. I saw those qualities in Ms. Lane's performance in just those brief clips and I can't wait for the movie to come out.

I cannot wait for this Movie to come out,I Luv this amazing Animal!He'll never Be forgotten By me ever!One of God's amazing art work!

Not real thrilled with the narration either, but Diane's wardrobe doesn't look that awful considering the time.

I was so happy to see there was a Secretariat movie coming out, but then my heart broke when I saw that it was a Disney movie - they screw up everything. How many horses are they going to use to play Big Red? And maybe, they'll even look enough alike that most non-horsepeople won't be able to tell. Most horse movies are pretty terrible. Black Beauty was very hard to sit through and I expect this to be no different. Seabiscuit was - meh. The Horse Whisperer was (expletive) terrible. Wish they would get some real consultants so we (the horsefolks) won't snicker about every incorrect detail.

On the bright side, its a horsie movie and my young daughters will probably love it.

Why, oh why couldn't they have used horses that at least resembled Secretariat? Typical of non-horse people, they think all horses look alike. The movie is not going to work for me. Shame...I was looking forward to it. Someone should have told the producer that getting a horse that looked right was key. Secretariat was known just as much for his outstanding beauty and conformation as his speed.

Secretariat the Movie looks good to me. I worked backside at Churchill Downs in 1973 when Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby as a hotwalker. I was one of the first women doing that kind of job back then. There were a few pony girls, women who took the thoroughbreds out to the track leading them with their horses but not many other women working backside with the horses, it was tough being accepted back then. But I remember Secretariat. The State stable was right by mine and I got to hang out with some of the grooms in the State stable. So, yeah, I am gonna see the movie. I'm an old woman now, but I look forward to seeing the "Disney" version of the events. That's okay with me. And I look forward to seeing Penny in the forefront because I know how it was for women back then, but in a different way for me. And it's a Heroic tale. I like those stories.

Secretariat would've mopped the floor with Seattle Slew.

That said, of course Diane's wearing a poofy wig - that was Penny Chenery's hair, it was the 70s after all.

I didn't like Seabiscuit but I will hold out hope for Secretariat...

Saw the movie last night (8/9/10). It is a movie worth seeing!

Really? You're just trashing the movie trailer? How about watching the actual movie. Then be snarky if it's appropriate.

This clown Secret Sacred said Seattle Slew would've wiped the floor with Secretariat. Ha Seattle Slew ran almost 5 seconds slower in his Belmont. Then this clown says "I know racings fixed". No, you're just so bad at handicapping that you think it's fixed because you lose every race.

maybe you don't appreciate horse-racing? perhaps you aren't familiar with his story? he's the greatest horse of all time, the horse Seabiscuit wishes he was. i have a feeling you'd be more impressed if you loved horse-racing and the greatest race horse that ever lived.

I too remember Secretariat winning the triple crown when I was a young, "horse crazy" girl. I knew then how special it was and as the years go by, it becomes even more special. Perhaps it's not a movie that will appeal to everyone, but I wouldn't miss it for the world - just to get a chance to relive those special moments again. By the way, Sacred Secret, they didn't know how big Secretariat's heart was until after he had died. Accordingly, they wouldn't mention it in the movie because they didn't have that knowledge!

Secretariat was a magnificent beast, so was Seabiscuit and all the other champions! It's a portrayal Guys, did you expect Secretariat to Return as the Star, himself! The Critics should find other work or atleast sit down & shut up! The trailer film was wonderful and moving! I have cared for/ridden/shown these beasts for the bulk of my life and they are so much more rewarding to work with then people. What we need TODAY is to re-visit our 'successful, inspiring moments in history and be rejuvenated and entertained, to counter/balance what we hear 24/7 on the news. Martha, NY


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