The Secret: Dare to Dream Parent Guide
The bright messages in this film have a dark underside.
Parent Movie Review
“No matter how bad things are they can always get worse.” So says Miranda Wells (Katie Holmes) and events are proving her right. She needs a root canal that she can’t afford. Her roof leaks and a tropical storm is heading to her Louisiana community. And she just rear-ended a truck.
What Miranda doesn’t know is that the other driver is going to change her attitude and her life. Bray Johnson (Josh Lucas) is an engineering professor and ardent believer in the power of positive thinking. As he says, “Anything is possible if you really want it” and “The more you think about something the more you draw it to you.”
I’m not one to argue with optimism: I believe in looking on the bright side, counting my blessings, and working towards a brighter future. But the “power of positive thinking” philosophy peddled in this film has a dark underside. When people are told that their thoughts determine the events in their life, it’s a short trip to victim blaming. Based on this philosophy, Miranda’s life isn’t a mess because she’s widowed with three kids or because she doesn’t earn enough money or because a storm dropped a tree through her roof– it’s a mess because she expects the worst and her negative thoughts magnetically attract complications. Color me cynical, but Miranda needs an affordable benefits plan, a bigger paycheck, and a good night’s sleep more than she needs a total stranger to spout aphorisms at her. When Bray tells her to focus on what she wants instead of what she doesn’t want, I don’t feel inspired or uplifted; I get angry over what feels like patronizing lecturing.
Fortunately, Bray isn’t all talk: he rolls up his sleeves and fixes Miranda’s car and patches her roof. His example of neighborly assistance is really the brightest spot in a movie that’s riddled with deceptively sunny messages. Even the positive thinking message holds more than meets the eye – not only for its victim-blaming tendencies, but because it’s an advertorial for the book series that the movie is based on. This film leans hard into product placement. Besides its dramatization of the books’ messages, it explicitly flogs Apple computer products and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, which feels a bit tawdry. But in a film based on thinking your way to wealth, who’s going to quibble with a bit of advertising?
Aside from the queasy messaging, The Secret: Dare to Dream has little negative content. In fact, it’s one of the cleanest movies I’ve seen in a long time. With no sexual content, minimal drinking, little violence, and scant profanity, it’s certainly family friendly. But do we really want our kids to learn that they can get anything they want if they think about it hard enough? (The potential for Christmas heartbreak is easy to predict.) Or do we want them to learn to be resilient in the face of reverses and to work towards achieving their goals? It’s no secret that these strategies are better predictors of success and happiness than “daring to dream”.Directed by Andy Tennant. Starring Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas, Jerry O'Connell. Running time: 107 minutes. Theatrical release July 31, 2020. Updated October 27, 2020
Watch the trailer for The Secret: Dare to Dream
The Secret: Dare to Dream
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Secret: Dare to Dream rated PG? The Secret: Dare to Dream is rated PG by the MPAA for language and an injury image
Violence: Scenes of destruction in a tropical storm: high winds blowing things over and damaging homes. A distracted driver rear ends another vehicle; no injuries. There is a brief scene of injured people after a plane accident. A main character slaps another person.
Sexual Content: There are a few scenes of a man and woman kissing.
Profanity: There are four minor curse words, two terms of deity, and an anatomical term.
Alcohol / Drug Use: An adult drinks beer with dinner. A woman drinks a glass of wine while she’s stressed. A man drinks alcohol as he struggles with painful memories
Page last updated October 27, 2020
The Secret: Dare to Dream Parents' Guide
This movie is based on a book franchise by Rhoda Byrne. More about it can be found here:
For reactions to The Secret, you can read these reviews.
Slate: I’ve Got the Secret
Good Housekeeping; The Secret Is Everywhere…
Some people claim that positive thinking helps them be happy and achieve in their lives.
While positive thinking sounds appealing, there are many who argue that it’s actually counter-productive.
Psychology Today: The Problem With Positive Thinking
The Washington Post: A Harvard psychologist explains why forcing positive thinking won’t make you happy
Do you believe that your attitude shapes events or does it change the way you respond to events? How do you develop the resilience to cope with challenges?
American Psychological Association: Building your resilience