Director: Simon Curtis
Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Gary Cole, Kathy Baker, Ryan Keira Armstrong, Martin Donovan, Kevin Costner
Runtime: 1 hr 49 mins
Released By: Walt Disney
Opening Day: 8 August 2019
Synopsis: Based on the best-selling novel by Garth Stein, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is a heartfelt tale narrated by a witty and philosophical dog named Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner). Through his bond with his owner, Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia), an aspiring Formula One race car driver, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition and understands that the techniques needed on the racetrack can also be used to successfully navigate the journey of life. The film follows Denny and the loves of his life - his wife, Eve (Amanda Seyfried), their young daughter Zoe (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), and ultimately, his true best friend, Enzo.
Whereas last year The Travelling Cat Chronicles tells its story from a feline’s point of view, The Art of Racing in the Rain tells it from the point of a dog named Enzo. Ultimately, it’s not going to spring any surprises for audiences other than taking every one of us on a sentimental, sappy journey of life’s ups and downs.
Milo Ventimiglia from Heroes plays Denny, an aspiring racer who dreams of getting into the big league (like racing in the Daytona for example). On impulse, he decides to adopt a golden retriever, which he aptly names Enzo after the founder of Ferrari. Voiced by veteran Kevin Costner, Enzo is a born racer at heart who regularly companies Denny on his run and also a fan of racing programs on television. Enzo is Denny’s best friend until one day he meets Eve (Amanda Seyfried), and Enzo realises he has to share his best friend with this beautiful lady.
Of course, Enzo is not CGI and he doesn’t really talk throughout the movie, though he plays a huge role that is maybe even bigger than his human counterparts. But still, audiences are often treated to Enzo’s generous philosophical thoughts, whimsy views on human beings and his confrontation with his greatest enemy - a stuffed zebra. It’s definitely a lot for a canine who has no human thumbs or speech, but Enzo greatly makes up for it by being the loyal friend and companion to Denny, Eve and their young daughter, Zoe.
The Art of Racing in the Rain never shuns from presenting itself as a tearjerker even if you have never read the source material by Garth Stein. You expect something melodramatic is going to happen later when Eve starts to develop severe headaches. How about the subsequent need to balance a career and the role of a struggling dad? Or an overprotective obnoxious grandpa (Martin Donovan) who stands in the way of Denny and Zoe? Maybe it’s all too predictable, or maybe it’s just part and parcel of life and Enzo just happened to be the perfect living thing to witness every single one of the event.
Depending on your religion or your take on life, Enzo is a dog who believes he will be reincarnated as a human in his next life from a documentary set in Mongolia. It is one of those fun facts that makes Enzo so adorable for pet and non-pets lovers alike. And what’s a dog movie if there’s no pee or poo in sight? And of course, the gravelly-voiced Kevin Costner who “danced with wolves” and dabbled in “field of dreams” does a wonderful job bringing the character of Enzo to life.
There are also metaphors about life and car racing scenes, but this is generally not a sports movie nor a movie about formula one racing. Director Simon Curtis who did My Week With Marilyn and writer Mark Bomback who wrote War for the Planet of the Apes keep things simple yet believable, tragic yet heartfelt and enough thoughts have gone into the story to keep the narrative going.
The Art of Racing in the Rain happens to be among the last completed titles by the now shuttered Fox 2000 label. Pity the fact that Disney is never likely going to release another mid-range family drama that involves a thinking dog. If you love dogs, a heartwarming story and the likeable performances of Ventimiglia and Seyfried, hop on with Enzo for a final nice ride. You can tell we simply adore this self-proclaimed dumb dog.
(The art of making you weep on the outside and warm you on the inside)
Review by Linus Tee