2010 Running time: 122 Certificate: pg Not yet rated

Synopsis

Braveheart writer Randall Wallace takes the directorial reins for this biopic of Secretariat, the 70s 'superhorse' that trampled all over the breeding formbook to become "the greatest racehorse of all time". Diane Lane stars as Penny Chenery, the housewife-owner who risks everything by putting her belief in an eccentric trainer (John Malkovich), a reckless jockey, and a nag they said couldn't stay the distance. So does 'Big Red' have what it takes to win America's fabled Triple Crown? Place your bets.

Director

  • Randall Wallace

Cast

  • Diane Lane

  • John Malkovich

  • James Cromwell

  • Dylan Walsh

  • Scott Glenn

Review

Welcome once again, ladies and gentlemen, to the Disney Feelgood Stakes; a chance for the family to cheer on a field of consistent performers who rarely get to play the front-runners.

Yes, it's all about defying the odds as Diane Lane enters gate 1 as Penny Chenery Tweedy, the middle-class mother who takes over the family stud farm from her ailing dad (give it up for Scott Glenn, folks).

You can tell she's a feisty one, especially after tossing a coin with a super-rich breeder (James Cromwell there) to become the owner of the unborn foal that grew up to be Secretariat.

Next to Penny we see trusty groom Nelsan Ellis (better known as the flamboyant Lafayette from True Blood), homely assistant Margo Martindale and, sporting the garish colours of maverick trainer Lucien Laurin, champion ham John Malkovich.

Nip/Tuck viewers will no doubt recognise Dylan Walsh as Penny's husband, and you can probably make out Dylan Baker from the last two Spider-Man movies as her boringly pragmatic brother.

And, with real-life jockey Otto Thalworth in the saddle as fearless rider Ronnie Turcotte, we're off.

It's a steady start as Penny peels away from Domestic Life to chase Daddy's Legacy. Unsurprisingly, Family Resentment follows close behind, and Inevitable Setback is never far away.

It's a remarkable feat for any three-year-old to win America's three biggest races in a row, especially since everyone reckons that Seabiscuit - sorry, Secretariat - is built for speed and not distance.

But there's no stopping Penny as she gets inside Horse-Breeding 101 and steels herself to get by In A Man's World. Unfortunately, she's coming under real pressure from Massive Debt... and Malkovich's French Chuntering is starting to get in the way.

At the halfway point now, and it's clearly going to take a mighty effort for anyone to get past Corny Dialogue and Foregone Conclusion.

That said, Dean Semler is having another good ride on Cinematography - possibly hoping to repeat his famous Oscar photo finish with Dances With Wolves - and the riders are giving it everything as we head down Cliche Straight for the last time.

The crowd is anxious. The hooves are thundering. Hardened reporters are chewing their pencils. The jockey looks determined. Anxious crowd. Hooves. Hacks. Jockey. Crowd. Hooves. Hacks. Jockey. Crowd. Hooves. Crowd. Hooves. Crowd. Hooves. Crowd crowd crowd! Winning post!

Was the outcome really in doubt, ladies and gentlemen? Put another way, will anyone ever come up with another way to direct a horse race?

Don't put money on it.

Elliott Noble