And they’re off! Secretariat is now on Blu-ray and DVD in a wonderful combo pack. The film serves as biography of the legendary racehorse’s owner Penny Chenery, how she came to acquire the animal, and the almost impossible true story of how her champion steed became known as one of the greatest equine athletes that ever lived.
The film opens with Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), a traditional housewife and mother who is tending to her family. She then gets a call that her mother has passed away. This then results in Penny inheriting her parents’ Meadow Stables located in Virginia. Penny has no experience running a stable nor does she have any knowledge of horseracing so she enlists the help of veteran horse trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich), an eccentric but highly capable individual. Joining them in their adventure is seasoned jockey Ron Turcotte (Otto Thorwarth), friend Elizabeth Hamm (Margo Martindale), and investor Ogden Phipps (James Cromwell). With the help of these people, Penny beats the odds and trains her new horse Secretariat to be an absolute success.
Diane Lane plays the middle-class Penny Chenery very well. She is competing in a male dominated world, the world of thoroughbred horseracing but she handles herself, and her horse with poise, and unyielding confidence. John Malkovich is a hoot as the odd yet talented Lucien Laurin. He also serves as part of the film’s comic relief. Margo Martindale provides fine support to the cast as the helpful Elizabeth Hamm as does Nelsan Ellis as Eddie Sweat, Secretariat’s groom and closest “friend.” Other support comes from fine actors James Cromwell as the wealthy Ogden Phipps, Otto Thorwarth as the determined jockey who rides Secretariat in each race. Scott Glenn adds a touch of class as Penny’s ailing father. Dylan Walsh is a little 2-dimensional as Penny’s husband, and Kevin Connolly is okay as journalist/author Bill Nack.
Director Randall Wallace has definitely captured the fun, and excitement of Secretariat’s unbelievable yet true story. He paints a beautiful picture with each shot. The scenes of the horse track at dawn are pleasant and genuinely exquisite. The same can be said for the film’s musical score. Composer Nick Glennie-Smith has scored Secretariat in a way that is both triumphant and reflective. There are scenes that warrant bold and heroic fanfare then there are scenes that are more quiet and contemplative.
The script for Secretariat is rather generic and lighthearted, typical Disney. Mike Rich has had a rather successful career writing screenplays that showcase underdogs, and characters that achieve stardom through trials and tribulations. His previous works include Finding Forrester,The Rookie, Radio, Miracle, Invincible, and The Nativity Story.
I’m not going to lie, I enjoyed Secretariat. Sure, there are many similarities between this andSeabiscuit and rightfully so. Both films are about horseracing. Both are about the relationship between man and animal and both films have a syrupy optimistic message. It’s a bit clichéd but you know what? It works. Secretariat is a fine film and is sure to win over families at home. If you love horses or just love a good movie, this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is for you. Secretariatwould be a welcome addition to anyone’s film collection.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
The bonus features for Secretariat are very good. There are sneak peeks of other Disney films. There are three featurettes. The first one is called Heart of a Champion and is a behind the scenes look at the making of the film. The second featurette is called Choreographing the Races and it details how the filmmakers recreated the horse races for the movie. The last featurette is called A Director’s Inspiration: A Conversation with the Real Penny Chenery and it is a wonderful interview between director Randall Wallace and the real life Penny Chenery. There is an audio commentary track with director Wallace, eight deleted scenes, a music video – A.J. Michalka “It’s Who You Are”, and a Secretariat Multi-Angle Simulation which shows Secretariat’s triumphant 1973 Preakness Run from five different perspectives.