Secretariat - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Secretariat Reviews

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Super Reviewer
June 19, 2013
Secretariat is a well crafted family film in the vein of Seabiscuit. With a great cast headed by Diane Lane and John Malkovich, Secretariat is an entertaining picture directed by Randall Wallace who previously directed We Were Soldiers, The Man in the Iron Mask and wrote the script to Braveheart. This is quite a different project for him to take on, but he crafts a great film here yet again, and Wallace is a fine director who is able to tell a great story. The cast here are great, and each brings something memorable to the screen. I personally preferred this film over Seabiscuit, and it is a highly engaging film from start to finish. If you love these films, then definitely give this one a shot. The racing scenes are well done and quite thrilling and are of course the highlight of the film. Horse themed movies tend to be bland nowadays and not too interesting, but this one has heart and charm, and is based by an incredible true story that is just worth seeing due to the fact that odds were against Secretariat to win the Triple Crown, and he astounded everyone and became the most famous racehorse who won the crown and became an icon of the sport. Although it is marred by predictability, this is worth seeing due to a strong cast, a great story and great direction. This is a must see for anyone looking for a great drama to watch, and although it follows the same formula as the traditional "horse race movies", it is also a bit different as well. Secretariat was unique, and this film is a fine tribute to that racing career. If you enjoyed Seabiscuit, then you'll most likely enjoy this one too.
Super Reviewer
½ December 5, 2010
True story about the best race horse who won the triple crown due to the determination of its owner, trainer and jockey. Great cast. If you like Seabiscuit you will like this movie.
Super Reviewer
May 11, 2012
An Extremely well produced film - glossy, shiny and well paced, this Disney production manages to get past some heavy handed Disneyesque sentimentality and deliver the goods in a ripping yarn about the greatest racehorse to ever run a race, and the woman who believed in him.

Diane Lane is near oscar worthy in her presentation of Penny Chenery, mother of four, and a housewife to an attorney. They reside in Colorado, and as the story begins, Penny has to rush back to the familial homestead in Virginia upon the death of her mother. When she arrives she finds the farm in decline and disrepair due mainly from her father being in the throes of Altzheimers. Fortunately, in a lucid moment, Dad bred two of his mares to a famous stallion (Bold Ruler). The story is not only of how Penny saves the farm, risking quite a lot (including the ire of her brother for not selling), but her belief in the horse she calls Big Red.

There's plenty scenes of bonding and horse sense, letting you know how noble these beasts are, and how smart and intuitive Big Red is. This is a bit over the top, as is the perhaps too constant reminders of a woman standing up to the status quo in what was at the time a man's sport and a man's world. Regardless, it makes for a good story, playing up the "us against them" aspect as well as the perhaps silent bond between horse and those closest to it. In fact, by showing us some "human" aspects of the legendary horse - his love for the limelight, etc. - the film draws you in and makes you seriously root for Secretariat.

There's plenty of drama in the well shot racing scenes and, even if you know the ending of the races, somehow there's still drama and you're on the edge of your seat yelling "go Big Red". Perhaps it's because I'm old enough to remember those races and being totally in awe of what has to be the greatest performance by a horse ever (the Belmont Stakes). I still get chills recalling the Sport's Illustrated cover of that magnificent, sturdy beast pounding the track into submission with the simple title "super".

But the film is not just about those iconic races and all the drama surrounding them. There's the human tale of how Penny chose her trainer and jockey. In yet another quirky, yet oddly effective performance, John Malkovich shines as the French Canadian trainer, frequently muttering in French. Then there is the joy of seeing the always wonderful Margo Martindale - just so natural in every role she plays. I found it interesting to see both Margo and ex congressman Fred Thompson in the same film; recalling the wonderful romance they portrayed over several episodes of the Sidney Lumet TV show 100 Centre St which aired several years ago. Both actors so fully able to just "be".

There's a wonderfully filmed sequence that aptly sums up the allure of this film. As the Belmont is being run and fans and critics alike utter that there's no way any horse can sustain such a torrid pace, the film backs off and shows the empty far turn with the white shiny rail on the right hand side. A voice over narration repeats a bit of poetry from the film's beginning; talking about how a warrior will always answer the call of the bugle - and then here comes Big Red around the turn, all by himself, thundering down the straight away and into history.
Super Reviewer
October 6, 2010
Just a typical "feel good" movie.
Super Reviewer
½ September 27, 2010
Wonderful wonderful!! Yes it's Disney made. So what?? It's well done, inspiring, and extremely exciting (even though I knew the outcomes, I was still cheering). Diane Lane does a stellar does the entire cast. Great movie to raise anyone's spirit. Kudos!!
Super Reviewer
July 26, 2011
A housewife balances her family life with her commitment to a horse she believes can win the Triple Crown.
This is a Disney film through and through. Nobody curses, unless you consider "butt" and "shucks" curse words. Everybody smiles a lot. The horse is anthropomorphized. But more damning to the film is few social taboos are challenged. Yes, the theme of a "woman's place" is discussed in the film but not with any serious conviction. There's even this saccharine line in reference to one character's war protests: "Our political convictions may change, but our belief in ourselves won't" (quoted from memory, not verbatim). Talk about avoiding controversy! What upsets me most about Disney, as a company and as a marketeer of culture, is the fact that it makes films that are for "everyone," but they end up being for no one in particular.
I also wondered about why all of Eddie's "cheering shots" only included him. Is he in the "black section" of the racetrack? Is he in the "person who leads the horse to the starting gate" section? This open question means that film has also deliberately ignored the racial realities of the time, too.
Diane Lane is sweet and beautiful. The horse looks like a pretty horse. John Malkovich is occasionally funny.
Overall, the film is well-made, but it's only for those who aren't annoyed by white-washed reality.
Super Reviewer
½ May 28, 2011
Very good film! Formulaic, but extremely well done. A good live-action film by Disney Pictures, they've had some stinkers, but this was is very good. Cheesy...perhaps a little dramatic and over-the-top, but the story was good and executed brilliantly.

I liked the cast, particularly Diane Lane and John Malkovich...Lane's performance isn't Oscar worthy or anything, but she's such a stunning actress. She carries the film; she's wonderful as the lead character. John Malkovich also gives a good performance. I really liked him as the trainer, Lucien.

Disney was wise to cast two key roles to great actors, it gives the film alot of worthy credibility.

I recommend this film. Seabiscuit is probably a better example of a great horse-racing movie, but Secretariat is highly enjoyable and entertaining.
Super Reviewer
February 25, 2011
A masterpiece, loved it. Diane Lane deserved a Oscar nom for this. This was better than Seabiscuit and really was perfect in every way.
Super Reviewer
March 28, 2011
'Secretariat'. A remarkable true story about one housewife defying all odds, and the champion racehorse that is still considered one of the greats.

A stellar ensemble cast, with the racing action, emotion and energy captured and portrayed brilliantly on screen by Randall Wallace's direction.
Super Reviewer
October 4, 2010
The true story of a horse grow itself into victory lane has never been so memorable. It definitely lacks a few moments of emotion that it should have, but it is saved by great performances and outstandingly intense races. Diane Lane gives a defining performance as Penney Chenery, a woman who loses both family members, in which gives her the opportunity to control her fathers farm and raise a new born horse. This film has wonderfully charm and a story that will have anyone smile. Secretariat delivers!
Super Reviewer
½ February 9, 2011
Good movie in the same vein of another classic, "Seabiscuit." John Malkovich steals the movie in some parts, but the best performance is from my favorite leading lady, Diane Lane. I do love me some Diane Lane :-)
Super Reviewer
January 27, 2011
Following the death of her mother, Virginia housewife agrees to take over her feeble father's stables, despite having no knowledge of horse-racing. Walt Disney Pictures has a workmanlike approach to producing these uplifting sports dramas. They've tackled baseball (The Rookie), hockey (Miracle), golf (The Greatest Game Ever Played), basketball (Glory Road) and football (Invincible). I guess it was only a matter of time before they turned their attention to horse racing in this decent docudrama. The production is glossy and conventional. If you aren't already aware of the thoroughbred racehorse Secretariat's achievements, the film will hold a lot more excitement. Interestingly the focus is not on the horse, but rather its owner and the obstacles she overcame. Diane Lane plays Penny Chenery with grace and charm, determined that she knows best. Indeed she seems otherworldly as she is never wrong in her assertions. That's admirable, I suppose, but it also makes for a distinct lack of tension. To be fair, the tale does radiate genuine warmth and casting John Malkovich as Secretariat's trainer was genius. He brings a subtle edge to a movie that is all warm fuzzies.
Super Reviewer
½ October 25, 2010
Great movie and a true story. Now i know who is the best racehorse that ever lived so far and that he's one of the few horses ever to win the triple crown..

Housewife and mother Penny Chenery agrees to take over her ailing father's Virginia-based Meadow Stables, despite her lack of horse-racing knowledge. Against all odds, Chenery -- with the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin -- manages to navigate the male-dominated business, ultimately fostering the first Triple Crown winner in twenty-five years.
Super Reviewer
½ October 23, 2010
Pedestrian and by-the-numbers David-vs.-Goliath tale of an underdog horse who surmounts expectations. Inert domestic tension is built around Penny neglecting her children and the dissolution of her marriage but it is never capitalized on and quickly dismissed.
Super Reviewer
October 10, 2010
Entertaining horse opera with the marvelous Diane Lane scoring strongly as Penny Chenery a woman of enormous energy and backbone. The supporting cast all contribute good work but Margo Martindale stands out as the loyal secretary Miss Ham.
Super Reviewer
½ October 1, 2010
I'd put this in the "Good, but not Great" category...I went in expecting a similar experience to "Remember the Titans", where I was pleasantly surprised after going in with low expectations. Needless to say, by doing so, my bar was already too high.

Even so, I will say there are some very cool aspects of this movie that I enjoyed a great deal. I went in with hardly any knowledge of horse racing history. I'll watch the Kentucky Derby on TV from time to time, and I have heard the name "Secretariat" floated around every year, yet I had no idea the extensive story behind it all. This movie captures that part really well, and tells an excellent story.

Another plus, John Malkovich. He really steals every scene he's in. He's pretty hilarious at points.

I really thought the action shots of the horse races were also very well done. They are really exciting even though you know the outcome of the big three races...Very interesting techniques used to capture the intensity of each event.

Lastly, there's one scene in the final race that I won't totally spoil here that was so unbelievably cool to me, that I'll probably buy the blu-ray to see it again & again...It involves music and a very cool establishing shot.

My main gripes are these: 1) at times, the movie is pretty slow. There's a pretty extensive setup period at the beginning of the movie. 2) They totally disregard the second race and leave you to watch as the family watches their TV screen at home. I thought it was just very odd to do it that way after seeing how well they captured the other races. Couldn't they at least have cut from the house to the actual race?

All-in-all, I enjoy aspects of this one, but unless you're a big-time horse racing fan, I can't really recommend it for more than a rental. It's good....but NOT great.
Super Reviewer
½ December 2, 2011
Secretariat is a beautiful and true movie that goes all out to make the try and make the perfect horse film. The plot is dramatic and funny at times, it seems like the people truly care about this horse and its beautiful to have a love for something that great. The cast is great espically Diane Lane who deserved a lot more praise then she was given. This movie is just a great time and makes you look at horse racing in a whole new perspective.
Super Reviewer
½ December 17, 2011
"Secretariat" starts with a reading from the Book of Job and like most sports related religious parables nowadays opens in Denver. This time it is 1969 as Peggy Tweedy(Diane Lane), mother of four, receives a phone call telling her that her mother has died back in Virginia. When she arrives, she finds the family horse farm in disarray with her invalid father(Scott Glenn) in no shape to take charge, as she stays on while her husband(Dylan Walsh) and family returns home. That it needs help becomes especially clear when she has to fire the corrupt trainer, replacing him with Lucien Laurin(John Malkovich) whose golf swing could use a little help. What she does not need help with is a coin toss which she wins by losing.

"Secretariat" may be hokum but it is well-executed hokum, especially in its racing sequences which are shown in real time. A very good cast also including Dylan Baker, James Cromwell and Margo Martindale helps. What definitely works in the movie is a deliberate pace that while admitting that Secretariat was not an underdog, shows that his path to glory was never a fait accompli, adding details like some interesting information on horse breeding. Granted, there are times when this does feel like a 1970's Disney movie, especially in trying to be topical by including kooky Vietnam War protesters but the Vietnam War was pretty much over by 1972. But referencing Chile is a nice touch. Thankfully, the movie does not lay it on thick about the horse possibly being a unifying factor because let's face it, the only religious thoughts concerning Secretariat were coming from OTB's.
Super Reviewer
October 11, 2010
Given my longstanding love for the inspirational sports movie as a genre, I was a little surprised by how hard SECRETARIAT had to work to get me on its side. It punches all the right emotional buttons (I do mean punches, by the way), but the screenplay is so leaden at times, and a little bit heavy on the Bible references and gospel music, that I didn't really get onboard until the last 30 minutes, which (spoiler alert . . . um . . . not really) deal with the triple crown races of Secretariat. There's a lot of by-the-numbers family stuff, and a falsely elevated rivalry between the owners of Secretariat at his closest competitor, but it all feels just a tiny bit forced. That said, when those final races are being run (one of them watched on TV with the footage from the actual race), I was as much as sucker for it as I thought/hoped I would be. So while I wouldn't place it at a win, it's definitely a place or a show... Whatever that means...
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