Any time a film is associated with a philosophy, religion, or self-help book, the filmmakers seem to have an exceedingly difficult time with subtlety. The agenda of selling the audience members on the belief system that the narrative is focused on often becomes more important than the narrative or other filmmaking elements. With The Secret: Dare to Dream, we are immediately assaulted with the source material being referenced in the form of a cumbersome title. But while this film is a far cry from being a memorable romantic comedy, audiences could do a lot worse in these days of bad Netflix teen romances, Lifetime movies, and the yearly bombardment of faith-based films released in the spring.
Based on the best-selling self-help book about the power of positive thinking, the film begins with the introduction to the embodiment of the opposite belief system in Miranda (Katie Holmes). Despite hard work and good intentions, Miranda and her three children seem to encounter endless bad fortune following the death of her husband in a tragic plane crash. She sees the reality of their bleak situation which includes a car crash and a roof wrecked in a bad storm, until these events bring positive thinker Bray (Josh Lucas) into their lives. The mysterious stranger has business in town, but quickly becomes entangled in Miranda’s drama, much to the dismay of her local boyfriend (Jerry O’Connell).
The premise of the film could accurately be described as Bounce meets Sweet Home Alabama, though this doesn’t account for the capitalistic preoccupation of the ideology running through the screenplay. Coincidences are always a bit obnoxious in storytelling, but this film is even more annoying in its insistence that fortunate luck is a result of positive thoughts. Scenes where a desire for superficial things such as an upgraded room or stuffed-crust pizza are rewarded with that item magically appearing are more than a little hokey. Thankfully, the second half of the film leaves behind the discussion of positive thinking for a genuine romance, built off of the natural charm and chemistry of Holmes and Lucas. What starts off as a film that feels a bit like propaganda ends up as a movie that resembles a lesser Nicholas Sparks adaptation.
Dare to Dream is a sweet and innocent film, never in danger of risking the PG rating. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though the humor could use at least a little bit of edge. The one-liners in this film are so safe and obvious that they wouldn’t even pass muster as dad jokes. This anxiety about alienating the most conservative audience members is also what leads to some of the cheesiest moments of forced humor in the faith-based films as well. Quite simply, the cast elevates an otherwise clunky and obvious screenplay into something little more than diverting.
The Blu-ray release for The Secret: Dare to Dream also comes with a DVD and digital copy of the film, just in case you needed three formats to watch it. The special features on the discs themselves include only a single behind-the-scenes featurette.
Entertainment Value: 4/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5/10
Historical Significance: 1/10
Special Features: 2/10