Review: Secretariat Blu-ray

Secretariat Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Disney | DIRECTOR: Randall Wallace | CAST: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh
RELEASE DATE: 1/25/2011 | PRICE: DVD $29.99, Blu-ray/DVD combo $39.99
BONUSES: featurettes, deleted scenes, music video, Blu-ray adds commentary, multi-angle simulation
SPECS: PG | 123 min. | Drama | 2.35:1 aspect ratio | 5.1 DTS-HD audio | Englishm, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Despite Oscar buzz when it ran in theaters, Secretariat was shut out of both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. But this story about the big horse that could is one of those inspirational, feel-good films that are a pleasure to watch.

Secretariat movie sceneTelling the real-life story of the underdog race horse that broke records — and Penny Chenery, the owner who wouldn’t give up despite all the odds — Secretariat is a solid drama, filled with heart. Diane Lane (Nights in Rodanthe) plays Chenery as a strong woman who handles her obstacles with style and grace. John Malkovich, whose Red arrived on DVD and Blu-ray the same day, plays the horse’s temperamental trainer. The naysayers are Chenery’s husband (Dylan Walsh, TV’s Nip/Tuck) and brother (Dylan Baker, TV’s Kings).

The cast also features smaller but fine performances from Scott Glenn (Backdraft) as Chenery’s father, James Cromwell (TV’s 24) as the man who almost owned Secretariat, and Nelson Ellis (TV’s True Blood) as Secretariat’s quiet and loving groom, Eddie Sweat.

The star of the film, of course, is Secretariat himself (played by five horses in the movie), and director Randall Wallace (We Were Soldiers) shows that clearly. The star is showcased beautifully, especially in the racing scenes on high-definition. The movement of horse’s muscles is clear, and you can see all the dust flying up as his hooves hit the racetrack.

The real-life horse is celebrated in a great featurette on the DVD and Blu-ray, “Heart of a Champion.” Lane, Wallace and others in the film are interviewed, but we also hear from the people they portrayed, including Chenery, Sweat and others. That’s a treat with films like this, hearing the real stories that inspired the film from the people who lived them. And best of all, the featurette includes footage of Secretariat’s actual races, including that incredible win at Beaumont Stakes.

How they shot the racing scenes is covered in the featurette “Choreographing the Races,” which offers an interesting behind-the-scenes look at this film, including the special camerawork done to film the shots as though we’re on the back of the horse.

The real Chenery is seen more in the Blu-ray exclusive featurette “A Director’s Inspiration: A Conversation With the Real Penny Chenery,” with Wallace and Chenery. It’s obvious that Wallace has much admiration for Chenery (who wouldn’t?), and here, she watches clips from the movie and talks about how she felt when she was living these times. It’s a heartfelt piece, and a great portrayal of an amazing woman.

Both the DVD and Blu-ray include some nice deleted scenes, with more on the Blu-ray, and a commentary by Wallace that’s also exclusive to the high-definition version.

The Blu-ray also has 3D animated versions of Secretariat’s 1973 Preakness Stakes race, which viewers can experience from different angles while listening to different commentaries, including one by Michael Smith, jockey of the most recent race horse star, Zenyatta. The angles also feature the TV footage and commentary of the actual race, which is a great inclusion.


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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.