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Movie Review


MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language.

Reviewed by: Angela Bowman

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids Family Teens Adults
Biography Sports Drama
1 hr. 56 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 1, 2010 (sneak preview—800 theaters)
October 8, 2010 (wide—2,500+ theaters)
DVD: January 25, 2011
Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures
Relevant Issues
Featuring: Diane Lane (Penny Chenery), John Malkovich (Lucien Laurin), Scott Glenn (Ogden Phipps), James Cromwell (Ogden Phipps), Dylan Walsh (Jack Tweedy), Fred Dalton Thompson (Bull Hancock), Kevin Connolly (Bill Nack), Nestor Serrano (Pancho Martin), more »
Director: Randall Wallace—“When We Were Soldiers,” “The Man In The Iron Mask
Producer: Mayhem Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, more »
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

“The impossible true story”

“Secretariat” is an inspiring film based on the true story of a housewife and a horse who rise victoriously to overcome incredible odds. When Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) is left to dissolve her family’s failing estate, she discovers a dream of hope in the birth of one of her father’s horses. With determination and the assistance of trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) and jockey Ron Turcotte (Otto Thorwarth), Secretariat becomes the first U.S. Triple Crown champion in 25 years, setting records that still stand today. Not just for the horse enthusiast, “Secretariat” speaks to us all. To find what we were made for and to live it without regret. “Because you never know how far you can go unless you run.”

“Secretariat” can be summed up in one verse. 2 Timothy 4:7 says,

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

It is a story of perseverance through hardship and struggle. While history tells us the outcome, the film also tells us failure isn’t in losing the race, it’s in not running. 1 Corinthians 9:24 says to “…run in such a way as to get the prize.” The Contemporary English Version says “…run to win.” The heart of the story, like the scripture, is not in the actual winning, it’s in the effort, in giving all you’ve got.

Two verses particularly came to life for me during some of the race scenes when the horses were brought to the track and the crowd was cheering them on. I found an interesting parallel in the distraction, fear and excitement shown in some of the horses, with our own. As we prepare for and run our race, we must learn to stay focused on Jesus.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” —Hebrews 12:1-2.

“Secretariat” opened and closed with quotes from the Bible (Job 39:19-24) and contained recurring song “Oh Happy Day” which includes lyrics “when Jesus washed… my sins away.” There is nothing that I love more than to hear the Name of Jesus praised, especially on the big screen for all the world to see and hear, particularly when you aren’t expecting it. I, also, love films about following your dreams, so fitting the two together makes for a perfect movie, in this case, almost perfect. A few oddly negative and humorous clips at the movie’s end would have been best left out in my opinion, but I suppose that is a matter of taste. Nonetheless, I would rank “Secretariat” as one of my favorite films of all time.

In speaking of another character, Lucien says he “couldn’t train a monkey to pick his own butt” and “couldn’t train his own bowel movements.”

Violence: None / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—It’s rare when I go to movies, write a comment on this Web site, and give a movie a five star rating. Well, I made an exception to this after I viewed Disney’s latest movie, “Secretariat.” “Secretariat” was a good film. I was impressed by the performances by both Diane Lane and John Malkovich. Diane really brought depth and complexity into her character as Penny Tweeney. I was even impressed with the cameo appearances of Penny’s family, including AJ Michalka (whom some of you may remember from Disney Channel appearances). The plot was incredible.

Up until viewing this movie, I had no idea who Secretariat was (other that he was a racing horse), and this movie kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end (which rarely ever happens to me during a film). Overall, there wasn’t much in terms of objectionable content. There were a couple instances of the word h**l and some other mild language. There was no sex, violence or anything else that would make me feel uncomfortable. As the reviewer stated, it was nice that Disney placed Scripture in the beginning of the film.

Do I recommend “Secretariat”? Absolutely. Younger kids might be bored with this movie, but older children might actually enjoy this a little more. Good job Disney.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Alexander Malsan, age 20 (USA)
Positive—“Secretariat” is an exceptional family film. Too bad for Hollywood that the movie makers never seem to learn that clean, inspiring, enjoyable family films are in demand. This movie has no offensive content and is beautiful to watch and inspiring to viewers both young and old. Although most of us know the outcome of Secretariat’s record setting races, it is still heart stopping to see them recreated on the big screen. Take the family, you will not regret it!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Brendan O'Brien, age 45 (USA)
Positive—Hollywood needs to make more family oriented films as “Secretariat”! This was a very wholesome and inspirational movie. The Scriptures and Christian song “O Happy Day” were a very pleasant surprise. I recommend this movie for all ages!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Placido, age 52 (USA)
Positive—Outstanding movie. One of the best ever. People were actually clapping in the theater it was so good. As a father of small children and a minister, I am very picky about what I watch and was pleasantly surprised when I took a chance on this movie and took my family to see it. I was actually shocked with the lack of any objectionable content.

I do believe this is the first Disney film I have seen where I heard the name of Jesus in a positive light. The movie plays the song with the lyrics, “Oh Happy Day when Jesus washed my sins away” not just once but twice! The only thing the movie was missing was that it did not preach the gospel.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jeff Hemley, age 37 (USA)
Positive—I just came from watching “Secretariat” and thought it was a wonderful film about the will to persevere through struggles (something I keep forgetting when I’m facing my own issues in life). Walt Disney Pictures has once again made a family movie with Christian values (“The Count Of Monte Cristo,” though released by Touchstone Pictures, is actually a Disney film, as The Walt Disney Company owns Touchstone; that film also had Christian values, and presented God in a positive light) and appealed to kids and adults alike.

The director, Randall Wallace, and the screenwriter, Mike Rich, are both Christians. The acting is superb, especially from Diane Lane, John Malkovich and Scott Glenn. From a Biblical standpoint, there are only two uses of “Hell” and a comment Lucien makes about a rival trainer. The humor is clean and there is nothing offensive otherwise. The trailers in front of the movie are also appealing. Rated PG.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Danny, age 24 (USA)
Positive—This is a wonderful movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. The screenplay was an excellent rendition of the history of Secretariat’s racing fame. The direction and casting were excellent, with Diane Lane smartly playing the determined owner of Secretariat and the one and only John Malkovich playing the horse’s trainer in my favorite role/performance to date by John Malkovich.

Even though we know the outcome of the movie, it is still exciting because of the depth of emotion in this story. I remember Secretariat, but I don’t remember ever crying throughout a movie as much as I cried through this one starting about a third of the way through right to the end. This is an excellent movie for families, and I was disappointed that there were no young people at my showing. If you like horses, this is a MUST SEE.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Halyna Barannik, age 64 (USA)
Positive—Christians need to support this film. It is an example of true family entertainment, and, if it is financially successful, we will see more of it. We need to vote for family entertainment with our pocketbooks. The film is very well-made, good cast, well shot, engaging story, in all respects top-rate.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Rigs, age 45 (Canada)
Positive—From a Christian standpoint you can’t go wrong taking a trip to see “Secretariat.” While the movie isn’t deliberately Christian in its focus, I was pleased to hear the quotes from Job and “O Happy Day” during the movie. Even my wife, who is very sensitive to movie morality, had nothing but praise for “Secretariat.” I knew how the races went but didn’t know anything about the back story which is what makes the movie more interesting than just watching Secretariat’s spectacular victories. Speaking of the races it was fun to be put right into the action with a jockey’s eye view it. Go see it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—James Taylor, age 39 (USA)
Positive—I tremendously enjoyed this movie. As a blessed child of God, it was encouraging to see a film that encourages “running your race to do your best,” not for the sake of just winning, but for sake of using the talents you have been given. I truly believe God is not concerned with what church you attend—but if you believe and, very importantly, what did you do with what was given to you. Thank you Disney, I will definitely be buying this movie when it is released for purchase. “God is Good.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Eve, age 66 (USA)
Positive—I very highly recommend this movie. Invited on a whim by some friends to see it with them, I am glad we took up their offer. This is the best movie I have seen in a very long time, for several reasons:

First, it was simply very, very well done. Acting, production, casting, cinematic storytelling were all excellent.

Second, it was educational: I knew Secretariat was the last horse to win the Triple Crown, but I had no idea of the story behind his owner, of his sudden and emphatic rise to prominence, or how flooring his victory was at Belmont Stakes. My wife and I did a bit of research on Secretariat after seeing the movie and were impressed with how faithful the movie was to the facts of the real story.

Third, I was delighted by the positive biblical and Christian references, as the picture began and ended with a scripture quotation, and featured a gospel song when the main character faced her deepest challenges.

Finally, it was inspirational. The whole movie centered on the concept of having and maintaining one’s faith in a specific goal, despite all the opposition and obstacles. It was an uphill climb against the odds for the main character, and she prevailed by trusting not only her own vision, but also in those others whose help she desperately needed along the way.

Interestingly, the movie began and ended with a quotation from the book of Job. That same book also says, “You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you; so light will shine on your ways” (22:28). The main character inherited a vision in her heart and spirit, and as she declared it over and over, it was indeed established for her.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Carl, age 42 (USA)
Positive—Excellent movie… Please take the time to see this wonderful production. You will laugh and cry and come out of the movie motivated to chase your dream!!!…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Paul, age 54 (Canada)
Positive—A must-see movie. Great story that is well told and well acted. No bad language. Great for any age that can sit through a movie. Go see it!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Joe, age 62 (USA)
Positive—Yes, this was a typical feel-good horse racing movie, but I still enjoyed it. Although comparing it with other movies of this genre, I liked “Dreamer” a lot better. In “Dreamer,” racing the horse brought the family closer together… and in “Secretariat,” it seemed like the main character’s obsession only brought more division to the family. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked it for what it was. It’s just an observation I had.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Rachel Jade, age 18 (USA)
Positive—I watched this movie with my family and we all loved it. It was shocking to see a Disney movie that actually talked about Jesus. Most of the time they just hint around. I hope that they keep up the good work. More movies should be made like this one.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Joanna Childress, age 20 (USA)
Positive—Overall, a good movie produced by Disney. My parents are very conservative, and I rented it for them. They enjoyed it a lot. There were a few curse words, but very few—probably what garnered the PG rating.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Dgulik, age 39 (USA)
Positive—Wow, I had somewhat different feelings about this movie. It’s a good movie, overall, but it has a few problems. First off, this review is mistaken in saying that there’s NO language. There is barely any language, but there are two uses of “d—n.” Also, it portrays the daughter’s hippie-ism (is that a word?) in a light that says ‘disrespectful behavior is okay as long as it’s to accomplish what you think is right.”

The main problem, though, is how the heroine gets close to idolatry several times about the horse. She neglects her other duties and never even gives a thought to her husband’s wise advice about the money. She’s overly confident that success is the only thing that can happen to her—to ridiculousness at times, to be blunt.

Those aren’t my only thoughts about this movie, though. I felt the need to say all that because I felt that those issue needed addressed and weren’t in this review. But this review still does point out some positive messages that I agree were very much there!

So do I recommend the film? Yes, but with more reservations. It’s an VERY good film for the purpose of discussion as a family of all ages!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Gabriel Mohler, age 25 (USA)
Neutral—I rated this movie neutral primarily due to moral content.

The Story…
-It’s very entertaining. The film might even get you to the edge of your seat (even if you know how the story ends).

The Morals…
-There is anti-military message that gets pushed along mildly through the film.
-The War-Protesting daughter dresses immodestly during one scene, but the scene is about the only part of the film that’s sexually immoral.
-There are a few moderate curse words. -If you get offended by Christian Rock music or by Christian music with a similar beat, there is some present at times. (I honestly do not enjoy the coupling of a secular-beat along with lyrics about the Sacred).

***SPOILER*** The main character gets remorseful for sacrificing her Family for the Horse, finally putting her Family first (only after she becomes successful and everyone submits to her).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Ben Page, age 26 (USA)
Neutral—I enjoyed the movie, “Secretariat”. Absent was the foul language (which is never needed to make a movie good), the gratuitous violence and the sexual enticements that plagues most of today’s movies. And it was fun learning some details about possibly the greatest race horse ever. However, it should not be viewed as a faith-based movie. An observation between the interactions of Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy causes one to wonder what Penny’s horse-ambitions cost her marriage and family. And the movie presented this question very clearly.

After seeing the film, some friends and I wondered if their marriage survived. A little research brought up a news blurb from Time Magazine, dated 1974, a year after Secretariat’s Triple Crown win. After noting a few investment disappointments from Penny’s horse business, Time stated, “Now it turns out even Mrs. Tweedy’s husband, Jack, finished up the track. “We were married for 25 years and things just ground to a halt,” said Penny last week from Long Island about her impending divorce from Jack, an executive V.P. of the California-based Oil Shale Corp. A major problem occurred when he moved to Los Angeles.

Obviously aware that East Coast fillies have not done well In (sic) the West, Penny explained, 'I realized I was never going to move out there. You can call it a conflict of careers'” Time Mag.

The movie, “Secretariat,” was an interesting movie about a great horse. But in the shadow of ambition was another story, and one not so happy. Michael
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Michael, age 58 (USA)
Negative—Angela Bowman, the reviewer for this movie gave us an accurate description of this film. A commendable work. I understand that Disney is planning on marketing this movie as a Faith-based film grounded in the same qualities that Ms. Bowman recorded in her review. However, we may have missed an underlying thread that was quietly included in the film? Did any one notice that Penny Tweedy (Diane Lane) controlled all the male characters that she interacted with throughout the movie? Did anyone notice that all the male characters were portrayed as weak and needing Penny Chenery’s overruling control and direction? Did anyone notice that Penny Chenery’s husband, Jack Tweedy (Dylan Walsh) was shown as being clueless when it came to replying to their daughter Kate’s (AJ Michalka) reasons why she should be part of the Hippy Movement? Did anyone notice that later mom, Penny, is shown telling Kate, “Go for it! Be all you can be!” (Be all you can be in the Hippy Movement? Really mom?).

I won’t draw any conclusions for you, but don’t the answers to these questions all point to a movie promoting Women’s Lib rather than Faith? I am not against a women being all she can be even outside the home. Even a Proverbs 31 women is successful outside the home (market place). Although, I don’t think she does this by controlling all the men in her periphery. And I don’t think that portraying role modeling men as week, spineless, jellyfish is very Faith-based either. So maybe we need to take another look at this movie and see what message the producers really intended for us to take away from the film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: none / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Bro Bob, age 68 (USA)

Response to above comment—This is truly a remarkable movie and positive, and personally my favorite this year and possibly for several years. The men in this movie are not weak, and Penny is not controlling. She is passionate and determined and understands the horse better than others, who happen to be men. The men, especially her husband, are supportive and loving, giving her the freedom and opportunity to fulfill her dream for this horse and also save her father’s farm. It makes perfect sense that she is the driving force behind Secretariat.

I saw no underhanded negative messages by Disney.
Halyna Barannik

Comments from young people
Positive—This was a very wonderful movie. One thing I really liked about it was it was based on a true story and I love those kind of movies. I went to see this with my mom and we knew it was PG for some language, but when we walked out of the theatre we were talking about how we didn’t hear any swear words(maybe one or two). Not only was it morally good, it had very good acting, and some of the horse racing shots were done in a really cool way. This is a great movie that I would recommend to anyone, especially horse lovers!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Brianna, age 14 (USA)