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Self-help tropes are the not-so-secret sauce in Andy Tennant’s feel-good romantic drama co-starring Katie Holmes and Josh Lucas. Inspired by The Secret, Rhonda Byrnes’ 2006 mega-selling testimonial about the life-changing effect of positive thinking, The Secret: Dare to Dream dilutes a perfectly serviceable love story with awkward doses of pseudo-philosophy. It’s the sort of movie in which kids express their desire for a pepperoni pizza during a torrential storm, and a few seconds later a pizza deliveryman miraculously appears at their front door. Viewers will earn no points for guessing whether or not a little girl will ever get that pony she keeps going on about.
It’s a shame, because the lead performers are so appealing and the script — written by Tennant (Sweet Home Alabama, Hitch), Bekah Brunstetter (This is Us) and Rick Parks (Ever After: A Cinderella Story) — manages to avoid numerous clichés even while wallowing in others. The story, set in and around New Orleans, revolves around Miranda (Katie Holmes), a widowed mother of three children desperately struggling to make ends meet working as a waitress. Although she’s dating her well-heeled restaurant owner boss, Tucker (Jerry O’Connell), Miranda clearly pines for her husband who was killed two years earlier in a plane crash.
RELEASE DATE Jul 31, 2020
One day she literally runs into Bray (Lucas), a stranger who has arrived in town on a mysterious mission. After she rear-ends him in a traffic accident, Bray offers to return home with her and fix her front bumper. Taking shelter with Miranda and the kids when a hurricane breaks out, he takes the opportunity to expound on his philosophy of positive thinking, demonstrating the mysterious forces that exist in the universe by using a magnet and paper clip as visual aids.
“Are you, like, a Buddhist or something?” asks Missy (Sarah Hoffmeister), Miranda’s teenage daughter.
It doesn’t take long for the kind-hearted Bray to become a fixture in the family’s lives, even volunteering to fix the roof after a tree falls through it during the hurricane. “Why are you helping me?” a suspicious Miranda asks. “Because I can,” Bray replies serenely. Viewing the interloper with suspicion are Miranda’s ever-hovering mother-in-law Bobby (Celia Weston) and Tucker, who suddenly becomes motivated to propose to a surprised Miranda in public.
The film works best in its slow-burn depiction of the tender friendship that develops between Miranda and Bray, although there are numerous hints that the latter is not simply the helpful stranger he appears to be. Miranda’s emotional and financial troubles are similarly sensitively drawn, with many viewers, especially in these perilous times, certain to relate to her travails. The characterizations are richer than usual for this type of film; both Bobby and Tucker, who could easily have been rendered one-dimensional, are given a surprising complexity that makes them sympathetic.
Unfortunately, The Secret: Dare to Dream also resorts to the sort of contrived manipulations, including a particularly annoying narrative fake-out involving Bray, that make you want to throw up your hands. And the efforts to infuse Byrne’s bromides into the proceedings comes across as artificial as best. (Not to mention, is The Secret still a thing?)
Shorn of its New Age platitudes, the film works reasonably well as a mature, feel-good romance, especially since Holmes and Lucas are so engaging that you find yourselves rooting for their characters to get together. And if you truly believe in the message of its literary inspiration, you know they eventually will.
Available on Premium Video on Demand
Production companies: Tri G, Savvy Media Holdings, Covert Media, Illumination Productions, Robert Cort Productions, Shine Box Media Group
Cast: Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas, Celia Weston, Jerry O’Connell, Sarah Hoffmeister, Aidan Pierce Brennan, Chloe Lee
Director: Andy Tennant
Screenwriters: Bekah Brunstetter, Andy Tennant, Rick Parks
Producers: Robert Cort, Rhonda Byrne, Paul Hanson, Joe Gelchion, Matthew George, Robert Katz
Executive producers: The Lorenzo J. Fertitta and Teresa Jo Fertitta Family Trust, The Frank J. Fertitta III and Jill Ann Fertitta Family Trust, Jas Family Investments LLC, Bekah Brunstetter, JMJ Family, Mahaka and Company, Skye Byrne, Paul Harrington, Christopher H. Warner, Elissa Friedman
Director of photography: Andrew Dunn
Production designer: Dennis Dugally
Editor: Troy Takaki
Composer: George Fenton
Costume designer: Annie Bloom
Casting: Kathleen Chopin, Tracy Kilpatrick
Rated PG, 101 min.
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