Film: Desecrating Disney

Title: Secretariat

Director: Randall Wallace

Starring: Diane Lane, Scott Glen, James Cromwell

Release Date: December 3rd

John Malkovich, pink suits, and horses – no, it’s not an LSD trip gone bad, it’s Secretariat, Disney’s latest installment of cliché-ridden sentimentality. A feeling of Walt Disney being dragged through the dirt as Secretariat races around the track is invoked while one grimaces at the overdone dreams-can-come-through plot that comprises this movie.

The latest in a shameful line of recent non-animation Disney pictures, Secretariat stars Diane Lane as Penny Tweedy, the stultified 1960s housewife who comes into the possession of her parent’s horse ranch following her mother’s death.

As she struggles to regain the lost dreams of her youth and save her father’s farm from being sold, Tweedy places her fate in Secretariat, the stallion with an untamed heart and undying commitment. As Penny battles to earn enough money to keep her father’s stables afloat, she elicits the help of horse trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich), the stubborn and quirky French-Canadian character with a heart of gold, to lead Secretariat to racing victory.

What follows is a series of struggles, naturally overcome, as Penny and her staff attempt to win the prestigious Triple Crown – a feat that, we are told, has not been achieved in 25 years.

Secretariat is yet another predictable family movie which fails to excite or enthrall. As the camera switches dramatically from obscure close-ups of the horse’s eyes to stomping hooves, one hardly feels a sense of excitement, but rather one of desperation, as the film draws to the two-hour mark.

Along with the bizarre camerawork and cringeworthy script, Secretariat resorts to some horrific stereotypes. From the oppressed housewife to the freedom-seeking hippie teenager, not to mention the illiterate black stable boy, Eddie, who spends his time cleaning the horses and singing ‘Oh Happy Day’, each character reeks of unoriginality and shallowness.

The performances themselves are not devoid of merit, but they contribute to the overall apathy of the movie, which fails to offer any new or exciting dimensions to the Disney franchise. The one saving grace of the movie is perhaps the horses, which are at least nice to look at.

Based on a true story, Secretariat may momentarily lift your spirits in a time of economic doom and gloom, as you watch Diane Lane save her father’s ranch and make a few cool million in process. However, the movie fails to leave any lasting impression.

In a Nutshell: Moving further and further from Disney’s once-proud legacy, this is essentially an unoriginal and totally forgettable film.

– Anna Burzlaff