Review: ‘The Secret: Dare to Dream’ should have wished for a better movie


“The Secret: Dare to Dream,” a romantic drama about the power of magical thinking, may not be the worst movie of 2020, but it has to be the dopiest. Starring Katie Holmes and Josh Lucas, it’s based on Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 bestselling self-help book “The Secret” (itself based on a documentary), which received a huge boost from an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Holmes plays Miranda Wells, a Louisiana widow with three kids, a leaky roof and $100,000 in debt. Enter Bray Johnson (Lucas), a charming engineering professor from Vanderbilt who arrives in New Orleans to present Miranda a mysterious envelope and, perhaps, some wisdom.

Frazzled after a hard day and bickering with the kids, Miranda rear-ends Bray’s truck with her minivan, creating an awkward meet-cute and preventing him from telling her about the envelope. Before you know it, Hurricane Hazel hits, Miranda’s boyfriend-boss (Jerry O’Connell) and mother-in-law (Celia Weston) are meddling and the can gets kicked down the road for nearly two more hours as we wait to find out what’s in the damned envelope. (That it turns out to be something Bray really could have and should have told her about from the beginning simply makes it more head-smacking.)


Spoiler alert if you are unfamiliar with the book: The baseline “secret” is the Law of Attraction. Simply put, it is the belief that whatever you think about, hope for, dare to dream for … will come into your life. Think good thoughts, good things will happen. While empirical evidence for all this is lacking, there’s certainly nothing wrong with having goals, a positive attitude and taking massive action.

Effectively dramatizing the idea, however, can’t simply be wished into being. The movie’s real problems have nothing to do with the Law of Attraction. Holmes and Lucas are plenty attractive and have enough chemistry to power a romance. And Lucas, for the most part, pulls off the platitudes and aphorisms he is asked to spout.

What dooms the movie from the very first scenes are the endless contrivances that screenwriters Bekah Brunstetter, Andy Tennant and Rick Parks concocted to build a narrative, without bothering to develop the characters or their relationships. Magical thinking, indeed.

The film looks decent, the actors are fine and Tennant, who also directed, keeps things moving apace, but it never shakes that annoying disregard for the audience as we wait for characters to reveal or discover information they already should have known. It’s competent filmmaking in the service of lousy storytelling.

‘The Secret: Dare to Dream’

Rated: PG, for language and an injury image

Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Playing: Available July 31 on Premium VOD