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The Secret: Dare to Dream (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

THE SECRET: DARE TO DREAM (2020)

The Secret: Dare to Dream

Starring Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas, Jerry O’Connell, Celia Weston, Sarah Hoffmeister, Aidan Pierce Brennan, Chloe Lee, Katrina Begin, Sydney Tennant, Samantha Beaulieu, Yohance Myles, Rosemberg Salgado, Jessie Terrebonne, Wanetah Walmsley, Betsy Borrego, Han Soto, Jeremy Warner, Jennifer Hamilton Collins, Cory Scott Allen and Jessica Harthcock.

Screenplay by Andy Tennant, Bekah Brunstetter, Rick Parks.

Directed by Andy Tennant.

Distributed by Lionsgate. 107 minutes. Rated PG.

Over the years, there has been a mini subgenre of fictional films very loosely based on self-help books. These titles have usually been romantic comedies, often done as big ensemble films.  Possibly the first of this sort was Natalie Wood’s 1964 light rom-com version of Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl. It was followed up about a decade later by a young Woody Allen’s anthology comedy Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).

It took decades before the style was revived. Tina Fey’s popular film Mean Girls was loosely based on a little remembered and awkwardly titled book called Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughters Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence. There was also a flop Dax Shepard film called Let’s Go to Prison, loosely based on a book called You Are Going to Prison.

At about the same time, a much more popular star-studded ensemble was very loosely based on He’s Just Not That into You. Hot on the heels of that film came Steve Harvey’s Think Like a Man (from his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man) and another star-studded comedy made from What to Expect When You Are Expecting.

Most of these films were of questionable quality: only He’s Just Not That into You, Mean Girls and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex worked as films.

The latest example is The Secret: Dare to Dream, which seeks to dramatize the 2006 book The Secret, which according to Wikipedia “is based on the belief of the law of attraction, which claims that thoughts can change a person’s life directly.” More succinctly, if you believe in something and can visualize it, it can be yours.

This doesn’t necessarily seem to be the most cinematic idea.  

Unlike most of these films, The Secret: Dare to Dream is not played out for comedy. Nor is it a huge ensemble film. The Secret: Dare to Dream is an earnest inspirational drama which focuses mostly on two characters thrown together through chance, though there is a decent-sized group of people surrounding their orbits.

As expected from its source material, it’s sometimes a little preachy, often a little manipulative, sometimes a little sappy, sometimes a little cheesy, usually very predictable, and sometimes more than a little far-fetched. There is also a tiny bit of religion touched upon, though the film is happily pretty restrained in dwelling on that aspect of the story.

However, what can I say? I still kind of enjoyed The Secret: Dare to Dream. It’s a formula inspirational film, but what the hell, it’s a pretty good formula inspirational film. Which is not to say that I believed a thing it was selling – but taken on its own terms it was fairly entertaining.

The story revolves around Miranda (Katie Holmes), a sweet and loving widow who is working hard to take care of her children and herself but is drowning in debt. She is now dating her caring, but slightly self-absorbed boss (Jerry O’Connell) and fending off her late husband’s mother, a real-estate agent who constant attempts to get her to sell their beloved, but somewhat run-down house.

She also has three adorable kids, including possibly the most well-adjusted teenage girl in the world and a smart and sensitive tween boy. The littlest daughter is a bit annoying in her cutesiness, though. For example, after a huge tree limb crashed through their roof during a tropical storm, she screeches forlornly “Why does this always happen to us???” This leads the audience to wonder how many times trees have blown through their roof.

Her whole life changes when she runs into Bray (Josh Lucas), a college professor visiting town. (She literally runs into him, rear-ending his rental car.)

Bray seems like the perfect guy. He is handsome, friendly, generous, smart, sensitive, non-threatening, regularly spouting new age aphorisms and platitudes. And he’s willing to do major carpentry for well under market price. (Though, as a college professor, we never really know where he gained that particular skill.) If only she didn’t have a boyfriend and he didn’t have a mysterious woman waiting for him at home, they would make an adorable couple.

We know from the beginning that Bray has some kind of mysterious connection to Miranda, one which he keeps meaning to tell her about, but never really does. The audience finds out what it was in a flashback about half the way through, which just makes Bray not telling her seem even more confounding. Of course, if Bray had just told Miranda the truth of why he was there immediately, there would be no story.

Will there be a happy ending? What do you think? This is a movie based on a self-help book. And while this is one of those stories in which there would be no conflict whatsoever if two characters just had a conversation early on in the action, the unnecessary conflict here is mostly fairly entertaining. Like I said earlier, The Secret: Dare to Dream is a paint-by-numbers inspirational drama, and yet somehow it does not come off quite as sanctimoniously as many other life-affirming, faith-based romances.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2020 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 6, 2020.

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