Film Critic

Chuck Koplinski is The News-Gazette's film critic. His email is and you can follow him on Twitter (@ckoplinski).

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Let me just put it out there — I’m cynical. There’s no denying it, and while some have accused me of being a “glass-is-half-empty” kinda guy, I insist that isn’t true. I see things as they are and don’t subscribe to sugarcoating things. That is the path to disappointment. And while I do believe in big comebacks where sports are concerned and people being able to turn their lives around through hard work and perseverance, I don’t buy into the notion of miracles. I’m waiting and would welcome the opportunity to be proven wrong.

There are times that I do wish I could see that silver lining in clouds everyone speaks of, and if you are one of those people who are able to perceive such things, Andy Tennant’s “The Secret: Dare to Dream” is the movie for you.

A shameless piece of inspirational cinema that doesn’t hold to the notion that less is more, the film should come with a warning that your eyes may actually fall out of your head, you’ll be rolling them so often.

Agonizingly predictable and suffused with sentiment applied with a trowel, this is a divisive work that will greatly satisfy those who wake up with a smile on their faces even during a nuclear winter, and the rest of us.

There’s no doubt Miranda (Katie Holmes) is having a hard time of it. Things haven’t been right since her husband died over five years ago, and the fact that she’s broke and her house is falling apart doesn’t help. Yes, she has a job, and her rich, handsome boss (Jerry O’Connell), who everyone recognizes as a good catch, wants much more than an employer-employee relationship, but she knows something is missing.

Her three kids — moody teenage daughter Missy (Sarah Hoffmeister), curious son Greg (Aiden Pierce Brennan) and precocious youngest daughter Bess (Chloe Lee) — are wonderful but have their usual kid issues, and the fact that she needs a root canal doesn’t help. Oh, there’s a hurricane baring down on her and the rest of New Orleans as well.

Thank goodness that Bray (Josh Lucas) shows up out of the blue at this crucial time. This guy is a pip! He’s understanding when Miranda rear ends him, goes out of his way to fix her car and her roof, understands and communicates effectively with her kids and proves to be a fount of good advice.

He reminds Miranda at key moments that “Anything is possible if you want it,” “Whatever happens, even the bad stuff, can lead to better things” and “Things can change, if you want them to.” Yep, while he may not have the most original material, there’s no question Bray delivers these hooky homilies with sincerity.

I’m pretty sure Hallmark has a lawsuit on their hands as I think it can be proven that each line of Bray’s dialogue has been lifted from their cards.

Poor Lucas struggles to make these pocket inspirations come off as spontaneous and fresh, but he’s just not up to it. (Frankly, I doubt if Olivier or De Niro could have pulled it off either.)

I’m not giving anything away by telling you that all works out for Miranda and her brood. It’s their road to happiness that grates. Manipulative and improbable, the clichés pile as high as the snow on Everest, and while I’m sure “The Secret” will prove satisfying to some, this sermon to the choir will likely illicit agonizing sighs of disbelief from those in the crowd who insist on a bit of logic, those who happen to have their feet planted firmly on the ground.