Secretariat – Blu-ray Review

At last year’s Academy Awards, Sandra Bullock took home the Best Actress Oscar for her work in the family drama/underdog sports movie The Blind Side. Critics praised her performance as Lee Ann Tuohy, a Southern mother who raises an underprivileged high school student as her own. Secretariat tries to make the same heartstrings tugging connections that The Blind Side made with the audience, and fails at all attempts.

Armed with her coiffed blonde wig and conservative 1970s wardrobe, Diane Lane plays Penny Chenery, mother of three. When her mother passes away and her father suffers a stroke, Penny flies to Virginia to save the family ranch. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s about to strike gold in the form of a new foal that miraculously stands merely minutes after being born.

Penny has no knowledge of the racing world, but forms a small team (John Malkovich, and strangely, Nelsan Ellis from HBO’s True Blood) to help groom Secretariat into the horse that famously won the Triple Crown, breaking records that still haven’t been beaten to this day. She also faces adversity – sexism, and the struggle of not being with her family as her children grow up – but all of that is glossed over so quickly it doesn’t seem to really matter.

What really matters is the horse. Secretariat was a remarkable horse who won lots of races. But the film loses focus several times, and it fails to provide any kind of connection to any person or animal that may happen to be starring in it. There are plenty of preachy mini-monologues that are meant to be inspiring, but none of them carry any weight. Despite the film’s ridiculously long run-time, we aren’t given enough time to care about any of the characters. Least of all Secretariat.

Instead of being an inspiring family film true to the Disney canon, Secretariat is wholly unappealing. Kids won’t be able to pay attention due to the businesslike handling of the material, and due to the length of the movie. Adults, unless horse-racing fanatics, will find it cliché-ridden and uncomfortably saccharine. In 1973, Secretariat was a horse that defied all odds, broke records, and inspired a nation riddled by war and Presidential scandal. He deserves a movie better than this one.

Disney has always made the most of the Blu-ray format, making even a boring film like Secretariat look and sound phenomenal. This Blu-ray is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with booming sound.

Heart of a Champion – The cast talks about what a great horse Secretariat was and all of his accomplishments. (14:56)

Choreographing the Races – The same guy who cast the horses in Seabiscuit, that other horse racing movie, cast the horses for Secretariat. (6:27)

A Director’s Inspiration: A Conversation with the Real Penny Chenery – By far the most intersting extra on this disc, director Randall Wallace (We Were Soldiers) sits down and gets reactions on scenes from the movie with the real Penny Chenery. She has some great stories to tell and she thought they were captured well in the film. (21:12)

Audio Commentary with Director Randall Wallace

Music Video – AJ Michalka “It’s Who You Are”

Secretariat Multi-Angle Simulation: Jockey – Michael Smith, an actual jockey, give insight into what his job entails (3:43); Reporter – Brad Free, who writes for the “Daily Racing Form”, talks about his job and how he picks the winners of races (5:09); Historian – Dennis Mills, the CEO of MI Developments, talks about designing racetracks (3:35); Spectator – Michael Calderone, CEO of Horse-racing Simulations, talks about his passion for horse-racing (4:14)

Actual Race – Footage from the actual race in 1973, when Secretariat won the Triple Crown. That year, he made the cover of Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated. (2:12)

Discover Blu-Ray 3-D with Timon and Pumbaa (4:23)

Sneak Peeks – Disney Blu-Ray 3-D, African Cats, Tangled, Disney Movie Rewards, Cars 2, Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure, The Incredibles Blu-Ray, Spooky Buddies, The Lion King Blu-ray, Phineas & Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension

While I found The Blind Side to be overly sweet and sometimes sickeningly so, at least they got some things right. There was chemistry between the characters, and the audience cared about them. Secretariat seemed to be a story about all the good things that happen to Penny Chenery, thanks to Secretariat. Nothing really bad ever happened; there was absolutely nothing to make us care about any of the characters. It’s an overly long, boring, mess of a movie.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Secretariat. Directed by: Randall Wallace. Starring: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Nelsan Ellis. Written by: Mark Ciardi, Gordon Gray. Running time: 123 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray and DVD: January 25, 2011.

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