I do not despise horse racing, though I am certainly not a fan. Back in my younger days, however, I was a sports fanatic and I watched Secretariat win all three races of the Triple Crown live on TV. To this day, I can remember the thrill of watching Secretariat’s almost supernatural victory at Belmont, the one that made him the greatest racehorse that ever lived. I hoped that this film would recapture that magical thrill and that it would deserve the four stars Roger Ebert gave it.
Not that I went in with high expectations. Had I done so, I would have seen it in the cinema. No, I didn’t think it would be my kind of film and was prepared for disappointment. I got it.
Secretariat is a well-made film by Randall Wallace. Everything about it, from the acting to the cinematography to the score to the writing and direction, was adequate. But nothing about it was outstanding, the way Secretariat the horse was outstanding. They tried to make the horse seem special, almost human. But it wasn’t enough. It was all done in too much of a matter-of-fact style. Even the races themselves were filmed in a low-key way rather than in a way that could generate the thrill I felt watching it live. There was a taste of the wonder generated by Secretariat in the filming of the last race, but only a taste.
On the other hand, I appreciated the fact that the film didn’t sensationalize everything the way many films of this story might have done. So maybe there was no way I could have been satisfied. As for Roger, I can’t figure out where his four stars came from if they did not have something to do with his friendship with the writer of the book, because I did not buy his arguments of the film’s greatness.
Secretariat was a good film of a good story. It just wasn’t a winner. Or maybe I’m gradually losing my taste for Disneyesque films. *** My mug is up but once again the stuff inside isn’t strong enough for my taste.