If it's hip to be square, then this racehorse movie is the ultimate in cornball cool. In telling the true tale of Secretariat, the chestnut stallion who, in 1973, became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years (he won the Belmont Stakes by a record-shattering 31 lengths), director Randall Wallace (he wrote Braveheart) rides the Mike Rich script for every bead of inspirational sweat, including Bible readings and gospel songs in heavy rotation. Don't care. The racing footage, with Dean Semler's cameras everywhere but up the horse's ass, is spectacular. And the acting isn't bad either. Major props to Diane Lane, who is a no-bull wonder as Secretariat's owner, Penny Chenery, a Denver housewife and mom who takes over the Virginia stables she inherits from her dad and runs into a brick wall of male resistance. John Malkovich makes a delicious comic meal of playing Lucien Laurin, the trainer who dresses like Superfly and disses Secretariat for laying back in the starting gate "like he's in the Caribbean." Cheers too for real-life jockey Otto Thorwarth as the champion's wily rider Ron Turcotte. A tip? Don't fret when the film gets stuck in stodgy mud. Just bask in the glory that was Secretariat, and watch that horse ride.
From The Archives Issue 158: April 11, 1974