The Art of Racing in the Rain Review
Yes, it’s another weepy dog movie. Following the release of A Dog’s Way Home and A Dog’s Purpose earlier this year, the latest in canine flicks is The Art of Racing in the Rain.
Based on the New York Times best-selling novel released in 2008 and written by Garth Stein, the film follows Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia), a race car driver who finds himself a best friend in Enzo, a loveable Golden Retriever.
Directed by Simon Curtis (Goodbye Christopher Robin) and written by Mark Bomback (Outlaw King), The Art of Racing in the Rain sets itself apart from other recent dog-focussed films as the audience is guided through events from the voice and perspective of Enzo himself. Don’t worry, it’s not a talking dog movie. Instead - voiced by Kevin Costner - Enzo narrates the story and provides viewers with an internal monologue. It is reinforced throughout the film that Enzo believes in a Mongolian legend which states that dogs who are ‘prepared’, will be reincarnated as humans in their next life. This provides the foundation for Enzo’s commentary and reflections on the events that take place around him.
From the moment Denny meets Enzo as a puppy, the two become inseparable and Enzo marvels over Denny’s life as a race car driver, often mentioning his wish to get behind the wheel. Enzo accompanies Denny as he falls in love and has a child with a woman named Eve (Amanda Seyfried) and as the family face a number of life-changing struggles, Enzo ponders over the incidents occurring around him. Although Kevin Costner’s narration as Enzo’s inner voice isn’t what you may expect from a cheerful Golden Retriever, it is entertaining and his lines are probably the most enjoyable part of the script. The performances from the three dogs who played Enzo must also be commended. The amount of animal training put into this kind of film is immense and the dogs were a delight to watch.
The promotion of the film was accompanied with the tagline, ‘by the people who brought you Marley & Me’, which may leave cinema-goers comparing the two films. However, unlike Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, the chemistry between Seyfried and Ventimiglia isn’t totally convincing, and as the lead, Milo Ventimiglia’s performance comes across as a little stiff and his bond with Enzo not entirely believable. This may be down to the script and at times awkward, wooden interactions between characters, but throughout the film it remains clear that the most convincing performance comes from the multiple pooches who play Enzo.
The plot and pacing presents several issues. Starting as a cheerful story focussing on the relationship between a man and his furry friend, the film quite suddenly turns into a melodrama. Advertised as a family film, the movie tackles several extremely emotional topics which are not necessarily appropriate for younger viewers. Also, as Denny and his family are experiencing turmoil, Enzo’s role takes a backseat which makes the movie feel a little disjointed. Enzo is no longer the prime focus, and while occasionally sidelining the dog is an interesting concept - one could argue it provides a more realistic portrayal of a dog’s role within a family unit as an observer of events - given that Enzo is the most enjoyable element of the film, it is difficult to even care about the main human characters and their struggles.
Perhaps the journey from book to screen didn’t translate quite as well as planned, however, putting those faults aside, the film does display points of emotional depth and dog lovers will most likely identify with a lot of the themes explored throughout. Enzo the dog will take a hold of your heart from his first appearance and despite the issues with the script and pacing, viewers are provided with a satisfying ending.
The Art of Racing in the Rain is out now