Secretariat

 
(i)

 

Inspiring true story about an amazing woman and her horse.
  • Review Date: October 6, 2010
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 120 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn about the inner workings of thoroughbred horse racing -- from how an owner, trainer, and groom work together to get a horse ready to race at two years old to how the parentage of that horse is important and how rare it is to win a Triple Crown. In addition to all of the historical information about Secretariat, children will also learn how difficult it was for Penny, a woman, to enter the "gentlemen's club" of horse racing.

Positive messages

The overwhelming message is that everyone should take the risk to "run their own race," no matter how unlikely it seems at first that you'll win. Penny's unwavering belief in Secretariat and her ability to know which people she should ask for help show that with enough guidance, training, practice, and focus, you can achieve your goals.

Positive role models

Penny is an exemplary woman and a fantastic role model. She balances her responsibilities as a mother, wife, and daughter with great delicacy and concern, always trying to do what's best for her entire family, even when it means being temporarily separated from her children. She follows her heart to save her family's farm and is a pioneering woman in the horse-breeding and racing world. She's the only woman owner highlighted in the film.

Violence & scariness

Some young viewers may be disturbed by the deaths of Penny's parents.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Language

Infrequent use of "hell," "crap," and "damn." A character says something in French that, according to another character, is something that would probably get him slapped by his mother, but the words aren't translated. Penny is occasionally referred to derisively as a "housewife," "little girl," "little lady," etc. by sexist-sounding men. In one instance, her "woman's intuition" is mocked by a rival horse owner.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults at a party drink champagne.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this 1970s-set biopic about Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) and her extraordinary horse, Secretariat, has very little content that's inappropriate for kids, although very young viewers probably won't be too excited about a horse movie in which the horse doesn't talk. It deals with sexism in the horse-breeding community and a woman's "place" in the business sphere in the early 1970s, but the language is still rather mild (mostly just stuff like "housewife" used derisively, for example). Penny is a fantastic role model for kids -- particularly young women -- and the story is uplifting and educational for families.

What's the story?

Penny Chenery Tweedy (Diane Lane) is a well-to-do housewife in Denver, where she raises four children with her attorney husband, John (Dylan Walsh), until her mother's death takes her back to her parents' horse farm in Virginia. With her father, Christopher (Scott Glenn), ailing from dementia, Penny decides to take over the farm's operations in the early '70s. She fires an unreliable trainer and asks breeder Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) to come out of retirement and train her thoroughbreds. When the farm's prize mare drops a chestnut foal that stands with astounding speed, Laurin, Chenery, and groom Eddie (Nelsan Ellis) all agree that he's something special. Chenery begins to divide her time -- and her responsibilities -- between mother and wife in Colorado and horsewoman in Virginia, where she oversees the training of her beloved "Big Red" colt, who is eventually raced as SECRETARIAT, the horse that in 1973 became the first Triple Crown winner in more than 25 years.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

When it comes to the magnificent horse, this is not an underdog story. Secretariat had, if the movie's account is to be believed, the heart of a champion from the moment of his birth. What is an underdog tale -- one that's fascinating to witness -- is how an upper-crust housewife transforms herself into a pioneering horse owner who defies the old boys' network of thoroughbred breeding to keep and race her horse. Even when her husband and brother demand that she sell Secretariat after his first year of racing rather than risk him losing a race and devaluing his price, Chenery stands her ground. She won't give up on her horse; she will see him run the big races. Lane is magnificent in the role, bearing the entire soul of the film on her capable shoulders.

There are some admittedly cheesy lines in the movie. When Eddie yells into the Kentucky sky that people are going to see something that's never been done before, it's extremely melodramatic, and Chenery sometimes talks in uplifting monologues that are a bit over the top. But you can forgive the occasional maudlin displays because the story of this extraordinary horse and its even more extraordinary owner is just so compelling. That director Randall Wallace can convey, through the use of the horse's heavy breathing, characters' nervous mutterings, and swelling gospel music, a sense of drama -- even though we all know Secretariat will win -- is remarkable. This is one of those heartwarming, inspiring tales that entire families can see together, rooting for Big Red all the way.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the message that everyone has to "run their own race." What was Penny's race, and how was it different than her brother's?

  • How was Penny treated differently because she was a woman? Why was she referred to as a "little lady" and "housewife" so often?

  • What's the movie's message about balancing work and family? It was at times quite difficult for Penny to be away from her husband and children -- was it worth it?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 8, 2010
DVD release date:January 25, 2011
Cast:Diane Lane, James Cromwell, John Malkovich
Director:Randall Wallace
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Genre:Drama
Topics:History, Horses and farm animals
Run time:120 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:brief mild language

This review of Secretariat was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 4, 6, and 11 year old Written bydart10 May 1, 2011
 

Great female role model

What other families should know
Too much swearing
Great role models
Parent of a 12 year old Written byMzSapphire March 12, 2011
 

Awesome movie

Absolutely awesome movie.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 5 year old Written byA co mom October 18, 2010
 
This movie has a bunch of issues for younger kids. There are deaths and burials (of people), a birth scene (of Secretariat), in which the Vet's hand is inside the mother horse, and an announcement at the end that Secretariat went on to sire more than 600 horses. So if you have not already had these conversations, be prepared to have your children ask all about funerals, burials, horse reproduction and why the vet needed a hand inside the mom of Secretariat.

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