Review by Sean Boelman
Inspired by the best-selling self-help book by Rhonda Byrne (itself based on a documentary), The Secret: Dare to Dream is unsurprisingly one of the most inexplicable melodramas in recent memory. Still, despite a script that is full of conveniences and contrivances, a committed cast and a positive message make this film better than expected, if only slightly.
The movie follows a widowed mother who, struggling to make ends meet for her family, meets a stranger who hopes to change her outlook on life for the better. Like many other faith-adjacent films, the story here is convoluted, and even if it is well-meaning, the message is so lacking in subtlety that it almost gets lost in the shuffle.
Perhaps the most frustrating issue with the movie is that it is simply too long. For a film that is essentially one big philosophical diatribe, there is simply no reason to justify this being over an hour and forty-five minutes in length. There is a lot of repetition and redundancy that could have been cut to keep this at a lean ninety minutes.
Visually, the movie is about as would be expected, with a lot of oversaturation and general cheesiness. There are some moments in the film that are outright laughable, particularly the end credits sequence that manages to be the most ridiculous part of a movie that feels pretty absurd in general.
Of course, a great deal of effort is put into making the message — the eponymous secret — known to the audience. That “secret” (if one can even call it that) won’t be a surprise to viewers if they are familiar with the source material, and while the literal approach to the movie’s ideas may be a bit far-fetched, the overall spirit is pretty admirable.
The film also does a solid job with its character development. Apart from a romantic subplot that is less than satisfying, the protagonist has a rather compelling arc. The portion of the movie exploring her relationship with her children is particularly strong, to the point one almost wishes it had gotten more of the runtime.
The cast here is also a lot better than one would expect given the typically low quality of the genre. Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas, and Jerry O’Connell all give committed performances, and even if the sometimes maudlin material holds them back, they all do enough to earnestly sell their portion of the film.
The target audience of The Secret: Dare to Dream will eat it up, and others may be surprised by the fact that it isn’t terrible. Despite it being hard to buy into some of the movie’s fantasies, there is definite merit here as a way of uplifting viewers.
The Secret: Dare to Dream hits VOD on July 31.
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