In 2006 The Secret launched as an hour and a half video documentary entailing how the secret to life was visualising your success. Later that same year Rhonda Byrne published a book of the same name and on the same topic that Hollywood has now decided was worthy of adaption into the feature film “The Secret: Dare to Dream”. What a long way to go for so very little.
I want to start by saying that the most egregious part of this entire film is the very fact that it even exists in the first place. It should go without saying, but self-help books should never be adapted into feature films, Mean Girls notwithstanding, it has never worked. These books are not there for the benefit of moviemaking, nobody is asking for it, and every single time it happens, it feels like shameless money-grubbing from authors milking the limelight.
The movie itself is totally harmless and fine, at times, even moving. However, it lacks any real conviction to convincingly express the thought process behind the hit book. Ultimately the titular secret only amounts to, “think good things will happen, and they will” a rather unimpressive mantra. That is not to say living by “the secret” is not a positive way to live. However, that is to say, that it one, does not always work, and two, is simply the basic process of self-affirmation spun to sound more grandeur than it really is, which is precisely this adaptions greatest sin.
The story is about single Louisiana mother of three, Miranda Wells (Katie Holmes), who is struggling to get by five years after her husbands’ death. On the same day we meet her she is lucky enough to meet Bray Johnson (Josh Lucas), a university lecturer who unwaveringly subscribes to the secret way of life, and who comes brandishing a manilla folder to give to the Wells’. However, Miranda crashes into the back of Bray’s car before they can officially meet, setting in motion a series of events that see Bray hold off on sharing his reasons for being in town because he believes he is heading down a far greater path.
It would be putting it lightly to say this is about as clichéd as it gets, but that did not have to be a bad thing. Small town love against the odds is overdone and always will be, but that does not mean it is impossible to put a unique spin on your interpretation. Unfortunately, Andy Tennant decided not to add any flair and instead produced the single most stock standard effortless motion picture I have seen in a long while. There is no risk here, and there is no excitement or vulnerability. All there is are predictable plotlines smothered in sap and southern accents.
To make it all the worse, the performances from Holmes and Lucas are both effective. Lucas, in particular, makes for a perfect obnoxiously positive person. He does his part in convincing you this philosophy is worth believing in, thanks to his innate charm. The only issue is the sheer silliness and improbability of the things he is supposedly making happen by just believing that they will. For example, pizza arriving right after the children describe the exact pizza they want or finding the perfect piece of plastic to fix a roof because it was floating in the river he happened to be walking by. It is hard to imagine anyone reading the script without many an audible groan.
The Secret may preach to dare to dream, but it fails to dare to be anything more than another failed attempt at translating self-help to the big screen.
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