Whoever put the new film “The Secret: Dare To Dream” on their vision board should be locked up.
Inspired by the kooky 2006 positive-thinking book by Rhonda Byrne, the movie has Katie Holmes play a Louisiana crab fisherman whose life is forever changed by a traveling gent who spouts New Age wisdom. This schlock belongs in the VHS player at a cult’s orientation breakfast.
Our first taste of what’s to come is this early scene: A smiley fella named Bray (Josh Lucas), who calls himself a professor, is having dinner with Miranda (Holmes), a widowed shellfish aficionado, and her three chirpy kids. Bray has just met the struggling clan, yet has somehow weaseled his way into their tiny New Orleans home for grub. Then he begins his huckster sermon.
“The more you think about something, the more you draw it to you,” he tells the rapt children.
“OK,” replies the son. “This is me thinking about pizza.”
Ding dong! Someone’s at the door. Oh, my God — it’s the pizza guy. Only, Bray didn’t order the pizza . . . the kids manifested it.
Later, the little girl who loves horses becomes the proud owner of a pony. When the roof of Miranda’s small home is damaged during a hurricane, she arrives to find it fixed by Bray, who’s done the job pro bono. Where did he get the patch?
“It just appeared,” he says. “It was probably floating around in the bayou waiting to be useful, and then it found me.”
We find out more about Bray, played with serial-killer charm by Lucas, through flashbacks to a past trauma. The final twist when that event collides with the present is wildly implausible, even by the standards of a film based on a self-help book.
Director Andy Tennant’s tone, by the way, resembles that of religious films, like last year’s “Breakthrough” with Chrissy Metz. Holmes is wholesome, and her third-wheel suitor, Tuck (Jerry O’Connell), is well-intended, if tortilla-flat. The music is cheesy and inspirational. But the whole thing is covered in materialist grime.
When a character in a Christian movie is rewarded, for example, it’s generally due to having a strong faith and doing good deeds. Here, getting swag is easier than hitching a ride with the “Cash Cab.” Say pizza, and one arrives.
That’s why when Bray smooth-talks lines, such as, “Let me ask you something: Can you see yourself being a lawyer?” in our minds, he’s Harold Hill, the lying instrument salesman of “The Music Man,” or the bunk weather conjurer of “The Rainmaker.” There is no high-minded moral lesson in lazy selfishness.
Why has this film been made now, anyway? The book, which was massively popular in its day, came out 14 years ago and was championed by a still-dominant Oprah Winfrey. Sure, “The Secret” continues to sell, but the cardinal rule is: “Strike while the BS is hot!” Today, the smart money would be on “White Fragility: The Musical!”
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