(2010) ** 1/2 Pg
116 min. Walt Disney Studios Distribution. Director: Randall Wallace. Cast: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, Dylan Baker, Margo Martindale.

/content/films/3860/1.jpg(To the tune of “Mister Ed”:)

We’ve had us a film about a horse.
Seabiscuit got Oscar nods, of course.
So another race horse on us they’ll force: Secretariat!

Directed by him that wrote Braveheart
But written by somebody else, with “heart”:
Disney schmaltz, more “pop” than art…Secretariat!

Diane Lane’s the dame, the horse she’ll claim as Penny Chenery;
For eccentric kitsch, John Malkovich, a trainer with esprit!

Middle-classy docudrama’s fine,
And “I Am Woman” as theme defined,
She shows the malign she’ll win ev’ry time, with Secretariat!

A spoiler alert: so eyes avert!
The horse and his mistress hit pay dirt.
Though Failure flirts, a Triple Crown spurt for Secretariat!

People yakkity yak a streak; clichés they do accrue
If only they were like Mister Ed, and talked like real people do!

Phony suspense and corn perforce,
The flick serves sports “history” as main course.
But for fam’ly fun, do I endorse?

Well listen to this:

See Secretariat.

[This review first appeared in Palo Alto Weekly.]

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Aspect ratios: 2.35:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 1/25/2011

Distributor: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Disney delivers a solid hi-def transfer for Secretariat in a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack. The stylized image doesn't always look as naturally film-like as it perhaps could, instead leaning towards a look defined in post: detail proves inconsistent, with some blurry shots, and black level is noticeably weak much of the time, resulting in decreased shadow detail. Nevertheless, the transfer boasts many of the bells and whistles we've come to expect from hi-def, particularly blazingly vibrant color and texture and detail that easily trump standard def equivalents. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix has nothing to detract from it: it's a potent and carefully structured soundscape that excels in quiet ambience, swelling music, and racetrack excitement.

The disc comes outfitted with a number of bonus features, beginning with an audio commentary by director Randall Wallace. Wallace knows his stuff, and he's a steady commentator here, as well as a defender of the material he's written and directed (though he cops to some dramatic license here and there).

“Heart of a Champion” (14:56, HD) gets into the true story, with comments from Diane Lane, Secretariat owner Penny Chenery, John Malkovich, Nelsan Ellis, Leonard Lusky of, exercise rider Jim Gafney, author of Secretariat: The Making of a Champion Bill Nack, exercise rider Charlie Davis, Claiborne Farms owner Seth Hancock, Nester Serrano, director Randall Wallace, Otto Thorwarth, producer Mark Ciardi, and Keith Austin.

“Choreographing the Races”
(6:27, HD) features Wallace, Ciardi, horse wrangler Rusty Hendrickson, Thorwarth, Austin, and Kevin Connolly.

“A Director’s Inspiration: A Conversation with the Real Penny Chenery” (21:12, HD) finds Chenery chatting with Wallace about her real experiences and becoming a sort of movie star at last.

Seven “Deleted Scenes” come with a director’s introduction (:40) and optional commentary by Wallace: “Alternate Opening” (1:18, HD), “Memories” (1:01, HD), “Introduction” (:41, HD), “’Are You a Golfer?’” (1:52, HD), “Seth Joins the Team” (1:02, HD), “No Time to Rest” (2:27, HD), and “Too Soon to Celebrate” (1:47, HD).

Also here are the “Music Video – AJ Michalka ‘It’s Who You Are’” (4:02, HD) and a Secretariat Multi-Angle Simulation: “Jockey” (3:43, HD), “Reporter” (5:09, HD), “Historian” (3:35, HD), “Spectator” (4:14, HD), and “Actual Race” (2:12, HD). These segments include CGI simulations of the 1973 Preakness Stakes race, with commentary by professional jockey Michael Smith, Daily Racing Form reporter Brad Free, MI Developments CEO Dennis Mills, and Horseracing Simulations CEO and spectator Mike Calderone; one can also watch actual video of the race with play-by-play.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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