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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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