Friday, October 8, 2010

Secretariat: It's No 'MacGruber' And That's a Good Thing

Let me tell you a funny story. Well, it was funny at the time.

Earlier this year my 14-year-old daughter and her friend, both big Saturday Night Live fans, talked my husband into taking them to see "MacGruber", the "MacGyver" parody that started off as an SNL skit and then inexplicably was stretched into a full-length feature film. Even though the movie was rated 'R' we had seen the skits and figured the movie probably just had some foul language and a fair share of bathroom humor. What harm could it do?

Let's just say you know something is truly inappropriate when the first words out of your kids' mouths after the movie are, "OMIGOD I AM SO SCARRED FOR LIFE." Also, it's never a good sign when you see your husband walking out of the theater, all the color drained from his face and he's mumbling something about having reached 'a new low in parenting.' Apparently there was a harrowing scene involving a stalk of celery. Use your imagination.

So I was relieved when I got an opportunity to redeem our parental standing when a few weeks later I was invited to a screening of Disney's "Secretariat." I hate using the overused label 'family film,' but that's what it is, and only in the best sense of the word. It's a thoroughly enjoyable film for adults, but one that's also wholly appropriate for kids as well. I took my 12-year-old, and despite her insistence that she is "not down with horse racing yo" she - and even more so I - really enjoyed it. And because I am horrible with summarizing, here is the plot via a little publication I read occasionally called The Los Angeles Times:
While the horse plays a central role in the movie, which was directed by [Braveheart writer Randall] Wallace and written by Mike Rich, "Secretariat" ultimately focuses on Penny Chenery, a Denver mother of four who against some family members' wishes took over her late father's Meadow Farm stable and bred and raced Secretariat. "Big Red," as the horse was popularly known, not only became the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown and also set records in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes that still stand today.
(Also, the film stars Diane Lane as Penny Chenery, so there's enough of a reason to go right there.)

As my kids get older I'm finding it harder to find movies that are appropriate for them yet not painfully saccharine for the adults. "Secretariat" fits that bill – it's not a groundbreaking movie, but enjoyable and also one that presents some valuable lessons that I think could make an impact on older kids and teens. The main one being that through a lot of hard work, belief in yourself and a healthy dose of respect for those around you, you could come out a winner.

Also, I should point out that the celery in this movie was fed only to the horses. Through their mouths.

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