By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
It has often said that people’s pet dogs know more about their owners and families than people truly realize. This serves as the central theme of this film which offers a dog’s-eye-view of his family and the troubles that affect them. Based on the novel by Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain, is a simple, heartwarming and emotional tale that addresses some of life’s problems and simply presents them in some highly relatable and compelling ways. Though the journey is rather predictable and often pedestrian, it is hard not to be affected at all by the innocent and sweet heart that drives this sentimental journey.
Milo Ventimiglia stars as Denny Swift, a professional race car driver struggling to make a lucrative career of his passion. Though he has great driving skills, he has yet to get his big break on a major racing circuit. Lonely and often dejected by his lack of success, Denny buys a dog to keep him company and lift his spirirs when feeling down. Named Enzo (voice of Kevin Costner), Denny’s new friend accompanies him just about everywhere, including the race tracks where he works. This soon changes when Denny meets Eve (Amanda Seyfried). The two date, eventually marry and bear their first child, a daughter named Zoe (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). Though Enzo must adjust many times to new developments, he remains loyal and caring to his family–through the good times and the bad.
With a screenplay by Mark Bomback, director Simon Curtis makes an irresistibly lovable movie with The Art of Racing in the Rain. Though it is rather easy to tell where the story is going, it is told from the perspective of Enzo and that in of itself makes the movie more compelling and emotional. Now I know this technique often stretches the suspension of disbelief, but I feel that it works well enough to be effective. It also helps that Kevin Costner does some great voicework as Enzo’s narrator. His grasp of the character and the writing he utilizes to make the character more credible are the main strengths of the movie.
The film also features solid and charismatic performances by Milo Ventimiglia and Amanda Seyfried who serve as the main human characters closest to Enzo. Kathy Baker also gives an affecting turn as Eve’s mother Trish, a woman who is torn between her desire for her daughter’s happiness and her loyalty to her husband Maxwell. As Maxwell, Martin Donovan performs well as the father who was never happy with Eve’s relationship with Denny and still interferes where he isn’t welcome.
Now I know this movie is clearly targeted for dog lovers, but I feel there is enough charm and emotion in it to appeal to all kinds of people. The Art of Racing in the Rain is certainly not a perfect film, but is one that has just the right amount enjoyable and touching moments to win audiences over. It isn’t a movie that deserves or begs to be watched theatrically, but is still deserving of some love.