Diane Lane, John Malkovich,Secretariat

John Bramley/ Disney Enterprises, Inc

Review in a Hurry: The true-life account of the "world's greatest racehorse" deserves better than this bland adaptation from the Disney factory. Worthy of the glue factory? Neigh! Secretariat is probably a safe bet for devoted horse-lovers, but others should pony up for a different flick.

The Bigger Picture: Following in the hoofsteps of Seabiscuit, this underdog horse tale chronicles the amazing journey of the 1973 Triple Crown winner. Wobbly Secretariat stumbles over a number of hurdles, though, notably Mike Rich's generic script, which trots out one cliché after another during its long gallop to the finish line.

Dressed in Mary Tyler Moore outfits and a stiff, Pat Nixon-like wig, Diane Lane portrays Denver housewife and mom Penny Chenery, who takes over her deceased dad's stables in Virginia. Despite her lack of horseracing knowledge, she bucks the male-dominated biz and invests in promising colt Big Red, later renamed Secretariat.

She hires veteran trainer Luicien Laurin (John Malkovich) to whip him into shape, and against all odds, they foster the first three-fer Winner in 25 years.

Hardcore racing fans might be disappointed by the film's focus on Penny's home life and investment woes, with banal family scenes involving her skeptical husband and war-protesting daughter. Plus, the film cuts corners on action sequences, depicting the stallion's mounting fame with a single slo-mo shot—and the penultimate race with stock footage on the Chenerys' TV.

Plus, don't expect any gritty portrait of the racing industry—Secretariat is as edgy as a Kentucky Derby bonnet. Scenes are awash in golden light and underscored with voiceover Bible quotes and gospel music. Holy cow, er, horse.

Lovely Lane rises above the cable-movie feel of the production but gets saddled with so many fist-clenching "we've-got-to-win!" speeches that you half expect her to exclaim, "As God as my witness, I'll never go hungry again!"

Not as winning, Malkovich continues his string of over-the-top character roles with a showy turn as the flamboyantly attired crankpot.

The 180—a Second Opinion: It's always good to see Scott Glenn (here as Penny's pa), and as a fun distraction, notice how much—in old-coot makeup—he looks like Lurch from The Addams Family.

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