Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vide review: "Secretariat"

Secretariat may have been the greatest racehorse ever. But as horse movies go, "Secretariat" comes in a distant second to "Seabiscuit."

Comparisons between last year's drama starring Diane Lane and the 2003 film are perhaps inevitable. Both are about iconic horses with similar-sounding names, whose owners, riders and trainers were on some level outsiders in the elitist sport. Both rode against all odds to glory in the winner's circle.

"Seabiscuit" strides ahead for its more ambitious portrait of the three men whose lives were rekindled by that horse. But "Secretariat," while sometimes predictable and too pat, is still a moving tale worthy of at least a rental.

Lane gives a strong, confident performance as Penny Chenery, the owner of Secretariat who literally bet the farm on him. When estate taxes threaten to gobble up the family farm, Chenery is backed into a corner and told to sell her promising but unproven stallion.

Instead, she came up with a bold plan to franchise Secretariat's breeding rights for a then-unheard of sum, with the proviso that if he failed to win any leg of the Triple Crown, all bets were off.

Less about the horse than the woman behind him, "Secretariat" still sets hearts to racing.

Video extras are OK on DVD, but rather impressive with the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.

The DVD has a music video, three short deleted scenes and "Heart of a Champion," a 15-minute doc about the horse and the effort to capture him cinematically.

In addition, the Blu-ray has four more deleted scenes, a six-minute featurette on filming the races (which reveals that five different horses were used to portray Secretariat) and a neat multi-angle feature that shows Secretariat's Preakness race from several different perspectives. Director Randall Wallace also offers a feature-length commentary.

Topping the goodie list is a 21-minute conversation with the real Penny Chenery, in which she discusses how the film differed from her experiences. She reveals that the family of Ogden Phipps, who famously won a coin toss with Chenery for pick of the best foal and didn't choose Secretariat, never quite got over the loss.

They're civil, Chenery says, but "don't expect a dinner invitation."

Movie: 3 stars out of four
Extras: 3.5 stars

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