Plot: What’s it about?
In 2003, Universal came out with a movie entitled “Seabiscuit.” The movie was about a horse who managed to capture the attention of the nation back in the days when there wasn’t a whole lot to be excited about. It was a true story, of course, and it was met with both critical and commercial appeal. The film was later nominated for several Academy Awards even including one for Best Picture. It ultimately lost to “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.” Ok, that’s all fine and good and we had our “horse” movie that made us feel good. Flash forward seven years and we’re now presented with “Secretariat”, another movie about a famous horse (although this one did accomplish the feat of winning the Triple Crown) and the same sort of tear-jerker storyline. Seven years is just long enough for “Seabiscuit” to leave our minds, but when it comes to movies about famous race horses, it tends to jar the mind to the last one we saw. Without further ado…”Secretariat.”
Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) has just lost her mother and it sucks her back into the family business. She’s trying to salvage her father’s estate and the family business is and always has been horses. Penny discovers that they’re nearly broke so she fires the trainer, rolls up her sleeves and is determined to get the family out of debt. She discovers that two of the horses are due to give birth and, wouldn’t you know it, one of them happens to be “Big Red” (later known as “Secretariat”) who she thinks could be the next great race horse. She hires an eccentric trainer by the name of Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) whose candy-colored outfits nearly steal the show. And, just like “Seabiscuit”, we see the rise of the horse. The rest, as they say, is history as we know that “Secretariat” went down as one of the greatest race horses to ever grace the track.
“Secretariat” is a perfectly fine movie and had it not been for “Seabiscuit”, I’d have enjoyed it even more. I do have to say that going to the horse races is one of life’s little pleasures and if you can’t feel the energy while rooting for your horse to cross that finish line first – well then odds are that nothing will get your motor running. The plot is a bit formulaic and I think I’ll remember Malkovich’s wardrobe more so than the movie itself. It’s a good, family-oriented movie but as I mentioned before it just seems a little too familiar. Admittedly, I did get caught up in some of the scenes and the instrumental score does help to raise the mood. Still, reality always came crashing down telling me that I’d seen and experienced this before.
Video: How does it look?
Visually, “Secretariat” looks good. There are some obvious CGI shots and the spacious 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer shows off the beautiful scenery throughout. There are some soft segments in the movie and, as mentioned before, Malkovich’s wardrobe makes your HDTV dance. Black levels and contrast seem on the mark and flesh tones are natural as well. It’s a good transfer and certainly indicative of a big budget film that does look decidedly good on Blu-ray.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS HD Master Audio track is where this movie really shines as the surround sound immerses you into the movie. The thump of the hooves really do a good job of a directional sound stage and Nick Glennie-Smith’s score resonates throughout. Dialogue is right on the mark as well. Like “Seabiscuit”, the racing scenes are where the movie really shines in regards to audio. Viewers will not be disappointed here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There’s a pretty decent selection of supplements to choose from and we start off with an audio commentary by director Randall Wallace. Wallace delivers a very straight-forward, informative track that I doubt most will listen to, but for anyone who is truly into the movie, this is actually a decent track. An interesting feature is the “Secretariat Multi-Angle Simulation” in which we get a computer-simulated race as we have it dissected by some experts and a jockey as well. “Heart of a Champion” shows a series of interviews with the cast and crew. Director Randall Wallace also interviews the real Penny in “A Director’s Inspiration” and we can see how endearing she really is. We get some information about the choreography as well as a few deleted scenes (with optional commentary) and a music video.