By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
If there’s an inspirational true sports story to be told, rest assured, Disney will make a movie about it. Though earlier examples in this mini-genre have ranged from excellent (Remember the Titans, Miracle) to good (Invincible, The Rookie) the Law of Diminishing Returns has been taking effect in recent years, as powerful storytelling and interesting characterizations have faded away, replaced by cliches and lazily-scripted caricatures.
Secretariat is Disney’s worst offender: there is not a single scene that isn’t formulaic and predictable, not a single character who acts like a real person, and not a single moment of genuine dramatic tension. Because of this, the film succeeds only in mundanely going through the motions. It’s boring. What’s worse, it glorifies blind faith and the abandonment of one’s family responsibilities. The one redeeming feature is John Malkovich’s turn as a French-Canadian horse trainer. Much as he did in Red, Malkovich elevates the film simply by having fun. Too bad no one else is allowed to do the same. Grade: D
For a better female-led true-story sports movie, I recommend Soul Surfer.
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.