Who's In It: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Scott Glenn, James Cromwell, Dylan Walsh, Fred Thompson, Kevin Connolly, Nestor Serrano, Margo Martindale, Nelsan Ellis
The Basics: The true story of Penny Chenery Tweedy, owner of Secretariat, the most famous horse to take the Triple Crown. She wins him in a coin toss, saves her dying father's horse ranch, brushes him while dancing to gospel songs, becomes a thorn in the sides of chauvinistic male horse-owners, raises her own family, cheers ecstatically every time the horse comes in first (and that's a lot) and looks 24/7 awesome the entire time.
What's The Deal: Oh, wait, did you want to see a horse movie? Like were you thinking this was going to be mostly about a horse because it's named after one? Well, sorry, but it's about Diane Lane's character and her own difficulties in being a woman racehorse owner during an era when women were only just starting to get their political legs under them and few owned championship racehorses. Weirdly enough, the word "feminism" never enters the film at all, but Lane demonstrates plenty of it as obnoxious guy after obnoxious guy wilts under her constant charm and well-timed sarcastic retorts. It also helps that she owns a mega-horse that can't lose. And because this is a Disney-operated family film, it hits all the right beats anyway and you wind up not really caring that the horse is kind of a supporting character.
The Biggest Hurdle: I'd like to refer you to the Dakota Fanning movie Dreamer, if I may. You probably didn't bother watching that one, but it's about this horse with a broken leg. And Dakota Fanning herself becomes a child doctor and heals that horse and makes it race. By the end of that movie you're freaking out that the horse is going to re-break its leg and it's sort of terrifying to watch. And then it makes you cry. But this movie is about the biggest, studliest, prize-winningest animal of the last century. The coin toss where Diane Lane wins him at the beginning of the movie is the only suspense there is. And it's not like his superiority and race-slaying abilities are ever in doubt. So telling yourself you don't know how it's all going to turn out--besides the surprise detail of the end credits where you learn that he sired 600(!) foals--is sort of tough.
Retro Wig Enthusiasts, Take Note:You could go see this just to enjoy the production design. It takes place from the years 1969 to 1973 and it gives you the most handsome and conservative version of that era. Not one groovy, candy-colored, Brady Bunch-inspired piece of anything in sight. Meanwhile, Diane Lane's fancy lady costumes and hair are even more good-looking than the horse playing Secretariat. When they're both on screen it's her you're staring at.
Hey Atheists, You Can Stop Freaking Out: Anything you read about heavy-handed religious proselytizing is an exaggeration. It's a bath of pretty stuff (with a dollop of Vietnam War protesting on the side) and fairly quiet about its Christian underpinnings. So don't get too excited about what you're hearing. Unless you hate The Staple Singers. And if you do then there's just something wrong with you.