Disney's Secretariat (rated PG for mild language) hearkens back to the kind of movies that made the studio beloved by families all across America. It's hopeful, it's cheerful, it's funny, and there's nothing in it to keep you from seeing it with either your 88-year-old grandmother or your 8-year-old daughter. Even better, both are likely to enjoy it.
By approaching the true story through the life of housewife-turned-racehorse-owner Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), director Randall Wallace keeps the tension high despite the fact that almost everyone already knows the outcome. The movie is less about the horse than it is about Chenery and her struggle to balance being a good wife and mother with fulfilling her personal dream (some viewers may debate whether she achieves that balance, but mothers everywhere will feel for her).
Even in its treatment of 1960s politics, Secretariat's big heart manages to be kind to all sides. The daughters are anti-war and pro-peace-signs, but they show respect for their parents' views. The parents are conservative red-staters, but they smile and wink at one another, believing the girls will feel differently when they're older.
A couple of cornier moments (a Scarlett O'Haraworthy "I'll never go hungry again" speech from Lane elicited titters, not tears, in my screening) are brief and easily forgotten when John Malkovich walks on screen as hilarious horse trainer Lucien Laurin. And though the story isn't overtly spiritual, the soundtrack, along with some wonderfully apt quotations from Job will make Christian viewers feel like they're in the inner circle for once.
For more on the film and director Randall Wallace, see "A different calling."