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October 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Roger Ebert is one of the critics cheering loudest in their reviews for Secretariat. In today’s Chicago Sun-Times, he recalls that his onetime TV colleague, the late Gene Siskel, once told him that his favorite movies were about what people do all day. “That’s what Secretariat is,” Ebert writes. “It pays us the compliment of really caring about thoroughbred racing. In a low-key way, it conveys an enormous amount of information. And it creates characters who, because of spot-on casting, are vivid, human and complex.” Ebert is not the only critic cheering. Bruce DeMara writes in the Toronto Star: “The film is an exciting, richly told tale with well-drawn characters, especially its two noble protagonists, a woman who succeeds against all odds and a horse whose exploits earn it a place in history.” And for those who wonder how a movie about such a well-known winner can orchestrate drama and suspense, Lisa Kennedy in the Denver Post says, in effect, “not to worry.” She writes: “Knowing in no way diminishes the trampling-the-oval action or the insightful human drama. Will he win? How will he win? These questions never flag. … Secretariat imagines that our lives, our history, can still deliver the goods.” Chris Vognar in the Dallas Morning News calls it “a finely constructed feel-good movie,” and Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post a “stirring, thoroughly entertaining movie.” A few critics are making no big bets on the movie, preferring to sit this race out. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times notes that it “flirts with the standard Disney take on animals as sentient creatures in command of their destinies” and “omits” any reference to the whip and most discussions of money. Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal comments that it “stumbles along beneath the weight of leaden life lessons.” Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune scoffs: “Secretariat isn’t bad but it’s precisely what you’d expect.” And Claudia Puig in USA Today remarks that the movie “substitutes reverence for bona fide excitement.”

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