By MICHAEL WALTERS
I entered into the theater showing “Secretariat” with heartstrings prepared to be tugged, and tears prepared to be jerked. It starts promisingly enough with some poetic sentimental narration as we watch a new dawn gleaming over the rural beauty of a racetrack.
And then the promising feature stumbles right out of the gate. When housewife Penny Tweedy (Diane Lane) gets the call that her mother has died she drops the mixing bowl she seemingly has just picked up for the expressed intention of dropping it in ham fisted shock- and an artificiality and disconnect takes over the material.
The true story of what may be the greatest racehorse that ever lived has the air of a high school play full of talented players who show absolutely no interest in the story they’re supposed to be telling. The dreadful script does them no favors. Diane Lane is talented and charming, but I never got a sense of who Penny Tweedy really was. Lane’s primary characteristic seems to be an unending supply of lame horse and racing related metaphors. The film reaches its nadir on the night before Secretariat’s big race at the Belmont stakes when Lane sneaks into Secretariat’s stable and gives the horse a pep talk, and life lesson- “I’ve run my race, now you run yours.”
The races are all run competently, if unspectacularly, with the most notable addition being a reliance on horse-cam digital video shots to give a jockey’s eye view during the race. They’re gimmicky, but don’t really add a whole lot to the experience viewing experience.
John Malkovich should have a been a home run as Secretariat’s eccentric trainer, but he seems positively bored on screen. He seems to prefer to let an array of brightly colored jackets and plaid hats do the work for him.
“Secretariat” desperately wants to be “Seabiscuit.” But it pulls up lame. And the audience is the one who suffers.
They shoot horses like this, don’t they?