Secretariat – the film

We loved the review by our Kempton ticket winners so much, we sent them to a preview screening of the new Walt Disney film, Secretariat, which is due out on 3rd December 2010. Here’s what they said about the film:



CHARLOTTE: Walt Disney has made a film about Big Red, more commonly known as Secretariat, and his incredible achievements in landing the legendary US Triple Crown in the seventies. Disney has brought his story to the big screen in an equine extravaganza.

JOHN MALKOVICH – I always followed Secretariat as
a kid so it was great to do the research. I don’t do
an imitation of Laurin with his specific voice or anything,
but I have done a lot of research. Also Bill Nack was a
big help and was on the set. He wrote for Sports 
Illustrated magazine and I’ve always liked him
enormously. He wrote a lot about Secretariat and was
the author of “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion”
and all the great Secretariat pieces which were
fantastically touching. 

DIANE LANE – I grew up loving horses. As a child I
loved Pegasus, that was my dream animal and I am
sure the same is true for many children, but it was a
little bit more intense with me. I enjoyed riding and
rode whenever I had the chance. That’s what I wanted
to do as a career. When I started acting, I couldn’t
wait to be in a Western and then I’d beg the wranglers
to let me ride at lunch. I remember making Burt
Lancaster wait because I got lost. I was 14 and acting
in a Western, it was my second film, “Cattle Annie and
Little Britches.” I do definitely have an equestrian
nature and it is a Western experience for me. It is
definitely great to be making this film about such a
champion as Secretariat. There is really nothing like
the beauty, strength and grace of a horse like this.  


LINDA: The story was not so much about the great achievements of this remarkable racehorse but more the story of his owner Penny Chenery, a housewife and mother of four, who on the death of her mother finds herself struggling to juggle a family life and domesticity in Denver and running her parents’ ailing horse farm in Caroline County Virginia.

CHARLOTTE: Disney uses the focus of the handsome chestnut colt’s owner, Penny Chenery – played by Diane Lane – to pad out a story that essentially consists of him winning nearly every race! The story starts with Penny at her mother’s funeral and despite her grief it becomes apparent there is another dark cloud looming on the horizon in the shape of the horse farm that is failing financially and in grave danger of losing its horses.

Penny becomes involved in the day-to-day running of the farm and the film focuses on her determination not to give up on everything her parents had worked for. The feisty Chenery, along with her trusty sidekick Miss Ham, battles against the odds to keep the dream alive. A coin toss over the ownership of Secretariat before he is even born ensures the journey to greatness begins.

LINDA: Losing the toss of a coin with another horse owner provided Penny with the opportunity to keep and either sell or race the chestnut colt produced from one of her best brood mares Something Royal. She decided to race him and the rest is, of course, history.


CHARLOTTE: Penny’s search for a trainer leads her to Lucien Laurin who is played with the right amount of kookiness by John Malkovich who adds some colour to the film.

LINDA: The cast did an admirable job to provide the feelgood factor in what seemed to be a rather weak film. John Malkovich (always watchable) did a particularly good job in providing a larger-than-life character in Lucien Laurin, the horse’s flamboyant trainer and Margo Martindale was a convincing loyal secretary and possibly the mainstay of Meadow Stables. Diane Lane as Penny Chenery was an efficient and determined farm manager and her scenes with the big red horse were quite moving.   


CHARLOTTE: Racedays of the times gone by are recreated for Kentucky, and New York with vintage footage of the Preakness. Secretariat plays his part well and steals as many scenes as his owner.

LINDA: The racing scenes provided the atmosphere, with some clever camera shots and soundtrack, yet how I wished for more original footage.

CHARLOTTE: There are some great action shots which capture the American raceday in all its glory but I agree it would have benefited the film to have included more of the original raceday footage.


LINDA: Everything we have come to expect from this Disney genre of film is there in bucketloads. Background music gave us the nostalgia and sentiment and odd tear-jerking moments that go with this sort of family entertainment – but one couldn’t help feeling we have seen this all before.

As a racing enthusiast who lived through and remembers the Secretariat era, I found this film rather disappointing. Secretariat was arguably the greatest ever American racehorse, but although this film will not go down as the greatest horse story ever told, it will provide an ideal family movie for Christmas.

CHARLOTTE: Overall Secretariat will bring home the prize money if you have a young family with some spare time at Christmas.

Secretariat is in cinemas in the UK from 3rd December 2010


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