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"THE SECRET: DARE TO DREAM"
(2020) (Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A stranger shows up and helps a widowed mom of three get through her string of bad luck.
PLOT:

"If it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all" could very well be the mantra of Miranda Wells (KATIE HOLMES), the widowed mom of nearly 16-year-old Missy (SARAH HOFFMEISTER), her younger brother, Greg (AIDAN PIERCE BRENNAN), and their younger sibling, Bess (CHLOE LEE). While employed at the seafood market run by her boss turned boyfriend, Tucker Middendorf (JERRY O'CONNELL), Miranda is in financial straits in their New Orleans area house that's not in the best shape and is facing the approach of a hurricane that could make things worse.

On the eve of that, she literally runs into the back of the truck belonging to Bray Johnson (JOSH LUCAS), an engineering professor at Vanderbilt who's shown up in town, coincidentally, to deliver an important packet to her. But feeling bad about the damage to her car and offering to fix that, he forgoes giving her the envelope, fixes her bumper, and joins them for pizza that night before heading off into the storm.

The next day that's cleared, but with Miranda's house suffering some structural damage, he offers to help fix that, something that draws the suspicious eye of both Tucker and Miranda's mother-in-law, Bobby (CELIA WESTON). Acknowledging it sounds weird to encourage her late son's wife to marry someone else, she nonetheless thinks Miranda should do so with Tucker. But Miranda isn't so sure, what with Bray leaving her somewhat confused by his seemingly platonic offers to help and his gentle prodding for her and her kids to adopt a more positive mindset that he believes will pay off for them soon.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

While I'm fully amazed by all of the cogs of the universe needing to fall into the exact place for you and me to be where we are at this moment, I don't believe that positive thinking and "opening yourself up" to said universe will somehow magically transform your life.

Yes, having the right mindset and being open to opportunities and change can lead to bigger and better things in one's life, but there's no supernatural phenomena that's going to occur on its own in response to you throwing the switch, so to speak, into the "on" position. At least not without taking related massive action.

That said, I'm a sucker for films that play with such notions along with the theme of serendipity, and thus I found myself attracted to "The Secret: Dare to Dream." Based in part on Rhonda Byrne's 2006 self-help book "The Secret" -- that argued that one can literally attract what one wants in life simply by believing and thinking about it and maintaining a positive attitude -- the film revolves around a widowed mom of three, Miranda (Katie Holmes), whose string of bad luck is broken by the arrival of a stranger, Bray (Josh Lucas).

He's arrived in New Orleans to deliver a large envelope to her, but she's not home for his first visit although they meet in short order when she rear-ends his truck. Seeing her frazzled mom reaction, he opts not to give her the written materials at that moment and instead offers to help repair her bumper and then her roof when a hurricane sends a tree into her kitchen.

While she gladly accepts his help, her mother-in-law (Celia Weston) and soon to be 16-year-old daughter (Sarah Hoffmeister) question her willingness to let a stranger into their lives, although her younger kids (Aidan Brennan and Chloe Lee) seem to like the man. And that's because he has a gentle, savior sort of aura about him, all stemming from -- yes, you guessed it -- the tenets of "The Secret" (although the book itself is never mentioned by name, just the philosophical elements it espouses).

None of which sits well with Miranda's boss, Tucker (Jerry O'Connell), who also happens to be her boyfriend who has a serious case of suspicious jealousy kick in when he learns about Bray and finds him atop her roof making repairs. Nonetheless, Miranda and especially her kids start to find their lives -- and outlook thereof -- changed by his mini life lessons and philosophy.

The mystery that's supposed to keep us engaged and which is repeatedly teased by writer/director Andy Tennant ("Sweet Home Alabama," "Hitch") and co-writers Bekah Brunstetter and Rick Parks doesn't revolve around those inevitable transformations or the related change of fortune. Instead, it's about what's in that envelope that for a variety of reasons -- some fairly contrived and simply unbelievable (whoops, there's some negativity) -- doesn't make it from Bray's hands over to Miranda's until late in the film.

That revelation, the inevitable (but brief) falling out between the main characters, and the basic plot setup gives the flick some serious Lifetime and/or Hallmark movie vibes, and those who love such offerings on those channels will likely fall for this hook, line, and sinker. Those who don't and/or who dislike films with too many storyline coincidences might wear out their ocular muscles from too much eye-rolling.

For yours truly, I ended up somewhere in the middle, but leaning more toward the first rather than the latter reaction. With strong performances from the leads and emotionally affecting material, I find myself overlooking or at least forgiving the flick's issues and let the positive vibes wash over me. While I might not believe in the simplified underlying aspects of Byrne's book, I do think enough of the movie offshoot works to earn a passing grade. "The Secret: Dare to Dream" rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed July 27, 2020 / Posted July 31, 2020


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