Monday, October 18, 2010

Secretariat: A Review

This is a very middle-of-the-road broad-stroked Disney film.  I was interested in it based on the fact that it was essentially a sports movie, and I love sports movies.  I love sports movies more than I actually like sports.  I have no affinity towards horse racing, but I like to watch movies about it.  I also won’t pick up more of an affinity towards it after watching the movie.  But movies about sports tend to be about the heart of the whole thing, and that’s what I love so much about them.

In Secretariat, I left feeling as though I wanted to see more horse.  I had a few notes for Randall Wallace (director) and Mike Rich (writer).  It’s a pretty typical note actually:  show, don’t tell.  I was repeatedly told how much the horse liked to run.  Other than the few races he ran, I didn’t actually see him run very much.  I was told how very tough-as-nails owner Penny Tweedy was.  There was a scene or two where this was demonstrated, but mostly I had to just believe what the others were saying.  Perhaps I like my tough-as-nails housewives to be even more obstinate than they were actually allowed to be in the early seventies.  I can concede that point. 

The horse races themselves were exciting; loud and larger than life.  I wanted more of it though.  Maybe training montages are clich√©, but they are also awesome.  It certainly wouldn’t have made the movie worse.  As far as I could tell, the horse just knew what to do.  They said they trained him, and I suppose I have no reason to doubt them, but damn it, show me!  And I can’t help but feel jipped by the scene of the family watching the horse race in their living room.  As much as I understand the point of the juxtaposition of the family watching from home, at least give me some inter-cut action.  The strongest part of the film is the horse racing, and they chose to withhold it during The Preakness. The Preakness, for crying out loud.  I don’t know horse racing, but I know if you’re wife’s horse wins the Preakness, and you were watching it from home, you’re a douche, and the tension created from the inter-cut would mean a hell of a lot more than watching you high five your stupid kids.  Just sayin’. 

There was no mistaking who the bad guys were; they were clearly labeled in their black hats and evil accents.  Not really, but it was close.  There was just no subtlety. 

It was a good story for sure, but we already know it’s going to be a good story – it’s about a Triple Crown winner.  But it was told with a mediocre tone.  It was unbalanced, and painted with the broad stroke.  I’d probably watch it again if it were on TV.  And it may be on TV very soon.

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