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Movie Review: 50 to 1

I can sum this movie up in one sentence: “Y’all, we goin’ to da Kentucky Derby!”

50 to 1 movie poster
50 to 1 movie poster

This movie was SO MUCH FUN to watch! We rented it from Redbox because all our Friday night shows have ended for the season and my family can’t say no to a horse movie. As with all horse movies, I was equal parts excited, skeptical, and scared. Excited because it’s a horse movie and I love horse movies, skeptical because the chances of getting a horse movie really right are slim, and scared because these guys’ story was so unique, the chances of screwing up this movie were astronomical.

That said, I am buying this movie as soon as I can and I’m watching it at least once a year because it is just that good.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with the story of Mine That Bird, let me see if I can do this without spoiling the story. Mine That Bird is a thoroughbred gelding who won the Kentucky Derby in 2009. He was raced up in Canada for a while, then sold to a couple cowboys who dealt in Quarter Horses. They had a few difficulties figuring him out, but based on his winnings before they bought him, he qualified for the Derby with odds of 50-1. Despite the looong odds of winning, he did exactly that. This movie goes a little more in-depth into the story of how all this happened and what went on behind the scenes.

Mine That Bird and Calvin Borel in the winner's circle, from 50 to 1.
Mine That Bird and Calvin Borel in the winner's circle, from 50 to 1.

The first thing I have to note about this story is Christian Kane’s fabulous performance. While he does seem to get the roughneck/cowboy/fighter type roles, he is amazing in them, and this one is no different. Reading up on the story afterward, I found an article that mentioned how excited Kane was to give Calvin Borel a leg up onto the horse that played Mine That Bird. So cool.

Mine That Bird's magazine ad for Platinum Performance.
Mine That Bird's magazine ad for Platinum Performance.

Second thing: THE ACTUAL CALVIN BOREL played himself in this movie. How awesome is that? Not only that, but he was a GEM. I love Calvin very, very much, and seeing him play himself in a very tongue-in-cheek way was the highlight of my week.

Third thing: While it barely did, this movie passes the Bechdel test. There are several named women in the movie, family members who go to the Derby with them. They talk about all kinds of things: wearing dresses to the Derby, making hats for the Derby, the fact that they’ve been invited to the Derby at all. It’s awesome. The only reason this movie barely squeaked by, as opposed to passing with flying colors, is because the women get very little screen time. This fact is actually okay with me, though, because this movie is about the true story of two guys and a horse, and because of the next thing.

Fourth thing: They have a gallop girl, Alex, who is a real spitfire of a woman. She’s hot-headed, mouthy, and a total smartass. And I love it! Thing is, she’s good with the horses. Chip doesn’t give her much credit because he’s a man and men clearly always know better DUH, but she proves to him that she’s completely capable and good things happen at the end for her. *happy dances*

While watching this movie, though, I couldn’t help but wonder: how true to the story did the writers stay when they wrote the script for this? There were some things that I couldn’t help but raise a brow at because they’re just so outlandish it’s almost hard to believe. However, given everything these guys went through, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those brow-raising events actually happened.

Why can’t horse movies that focus on any other discipline do them the same amount of justice as racing movies? I need to know why! Seabiscuit, Secretariat, and now 50 to 1. Racing movies based on true stories are dynamite for horse people, even if they aren't dynamite for the box office.

*writes long, elaborate, pleading letters to the directors, screenwriters, and producers of all three movies begging them to do the same justice to non-racing stories, too*

Mine That Bird and Calvin on the cover of Sports Illustrated
Mine That Bird and Calvin on the cover of Sports Illustrated

Sitting there on the couch at 11:00pm, watching this movie, as the gates opened, despite knowing how the race ended because I watch the Kentucky Derby every year and saw it myself, was such an adrenaline rush. No wonder the Derby is called “the greatest two minutes in sports.”

Overall, I adored this movie. It’s definitely got a place reserved on my shelves.