New on DVD, Race to Win joins the stable of inspirational horse movies. In the wake of a sudden heart attack, the death of Gentry (Luke Perry) leaves his devoted family in turmoil. Facing threats to sell their family ranch to pay off debts, oldest daughter Hannah (Danielle Campbell) looks to her father’s spirit for guidance and strength.
Horse movies follow a familiar trail. A horse lover faces a tragedy. Conflict comes in the form of an illness or a greedy slickster. The protagonist comes up with a crazy plan to overcome evil while on the back of a horse. Everyone pulls together and rides triumphantly into the sunset. Race to Win follows this well-worn path with the added twist of (non-scary) ghost-dad appearances.
The opening scene is heavy with foreshadowing. Gentry, the loving father, asks his devoted daughter to promise to keep the farm no matter what happens. It’s a given, “no matter what” is about to happen. Luke Perry makes an early exit from the film when his character goes down with a fatal heart attack. But he’ll be back!
A steady rhythm of doubt and encouragement follows. Hannah, tasked with saving the family farm by winning a barrel race, is on the cusp of giving up. Her faithful father shows up, speaking words of life. He assures her of his love and tells her how much he believes in her. This gives Hannah just enough strength to make it to the next scene where the supernatural encouragement repeats. This cycle continues for the first half of the movie. The plot then takes a few interesting twists and turns as good and evil race neck-and-neck toward the closing credits.
This family-friendly film showcases the strong bond between a father and his children. Although absent, Gentry still has a powerful influence on his kids. He guides his son to make “man of the house” decisions. He gives Hannah the self-confidence to pursue her dreams. Hopefully, Gentry’s words after death will inspire parents to say these types of affirming things to their children today.
The characters in Race to Win model resilience. Hannah, in particular, stands up under the pressure of holding the family together. No matter how often they get knocked down, they rise again. The encouragement they receive from each other inspires. Be it mother, aunt, or a deceased father, this family cheerleads itself to victory. Their greatest strength is their belief in one another.
Predictable plot aside, this film bursts with positive elements. It highlights character traits of unconditional love, courage, resilience, and justice. Saying you love someone is valued over just showing them. Parents will want to hug their kids a little tighter after watching.
The few negative elements are clearly portrayed as a handicap. Gambling, drinking, greed, lying, and cheating have an obvious negative impact on the antagonists. The death scene may disturb the youngest of viewers. The positive messages and the absence of violence, language, and sexual content make it an easy choice for family movie night.