Great cast key to making ‘The Secret’ worth watching

MOVIE REVIEW

“THE SECRET: DARE TO DREAM”

Rated PG. On Amazon, Apple TV, VUDU and more.

Grade: B-

Can you dare to dream during a nightmare?

Inspired by the inspirational 2006 book “The Secret” by Australian author Rhonda Byrne, “The Secret: Dare to Dream” aspires to be, like the book, I presume, the first in a series of films unlocking the secret to happiness for millions.

First, it needs to unlock the secret of being a better film. While this effort, adapted by Bekah Brunstetter of TV’s “This Is Us” and featuring Katie Holmes as Miranda Wells, a widowed suburban New Orleans mother of three whose life is a “series of unfortunate events,” has its virtues, it’s far from great. Among the unfortunate events in Miranda’s life are being widowed, being broke, not being able to provide sufficiently for her children, a disapproving mother-in-law named Bobby (the great Celia Weston) and an unexciting relationship with her not quite dream-mate, restaurant-owner boss Tuck (Jerry O’Connell).

Add to that not really very devastating list rear-ending with her beat-up van a not-quite stranger named Bray Johnson (Josh Lucas), who has already met Miranda’s tweener son, Greg (Aidan Pierce Brennan), and established that he has a manila envelope for Miranda, although she does not know this and will not find out until much later. Did I mention that Hurricane Hazel is bearing down?

  • Katie Holmes, Aidan Pierce Brennan, Sarah Hoffmeister and Chloe Lee, from left, in THE SECRET: DARE TO DREAM. Photo Credit Alfonso Pompo Bresciani, Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

  • Josh Lucas and Jerry O’Connell, from left, in THE SECRET DARE TO DREAM. Photo Credit Alfonso Pompo Bresciani, Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Bray, an engineer and professor at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, offers to fix Miranda’s bumper (not a euphemism). Later, after a tree crashes into Miranda’s roof, Bay offers to fix that, too. Hey, wait a minute. Is he gonna fix her? Is he her savior? I’m afraid he might be, and this is what makes “The Secret” seems a bit retrograde, problematic and predictable.

But never underestimate what a good cast can do even with a film as sappy as this hybrid of self-help therapy and Nicholas Sparks romances. “The Secret: Dare to Dream,” which sounds like the title of a much worse film, is one of those stories that depend upon withholding information from the audience (and from Miranda) to work. That information relates to who Bray really is and why he keeps running into Miranda, much to Tuck’s dismay, and why Bray often sounds like Forrest Gump’s handsome cousin.

Miranda’s late husband was an inventor, who died several years earlier. Miranda starts her days taking her kids to school and picking up seafood for the restaurant from the pier. I’m afraid Byrne’s philosophy turns out to be a variation of the same old Norman Vincent Peale positive thinking spiel. But Holmes, late of “Dawson’s Creek,” has never been as appealing. She and Lucas, who is also strong in a dubious role, have obvious chemistry. The kids are quite good, and the film, directed by Andy Tennant of “Fool’s Gold” and “Hitch,” has a couple of genuinely emotional moments.

(“The Secret: Dare to Dream” contains off-color language and an injury.)

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