Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Kevin Costner, Kathy Baker
Director: Simon Curtis
Well, it looks like Hollywood though 2019 was the year of the dog, as The Art of Racing in the Rain is now the third major release to feature a canine main character. These films all follow the same generic formula of people going through troubling times in their lives and how dogs are there to offset the bad times through their loyalty and love. The reason why these stories all follow the same formula is because it works. It effectively conveys the ideas it presents and is emotionally investing enough where the audience can relate to it. The plot may be a little too dark for its own good and the leading characters aren’t the most charismatic in the world, but The Art of Racing in the Rain is still a sweet, sensitive portrayal of life through the eyes of the best dog breed.
The film follows Enzo (voiced by Costner), a golden retriever who is adopted by Denny Swift (Ventimiglia), a young race car driver from Seattle. Enzo serves as the narrator and watches as Denny progresses in his career, falls in love and starts a family with Eve (Seyfried), and faces the obstacles that life throws at him. Through all the ups and downs Denny goes through, Enzo is right by his side the entire time and makes sure Danny can get through all of these tough moments. Of the main characters, the only one that audiences can really fall in love with is Enzo as he provides a voice of reason and unconditional love during the 109 minute runtime. Costner’s soft yet poised voice helps illustrate the plot while still keeping it emotionally relevant. Since Enzo is the only truly benevolent character in the film, it was a good idea to have him as the central point of the film and helps balance the film out. The main difference The Art of Racing in the Rain and other similar films is that this movie is about people from the lens of a dog while other movies are exclusively about the animal. This distinction is important as it allows a connection to be made to everyone we see on screen. Outside of Enzo, the acting from Ventimiglia and Seyfried wasn’t exactly the most memorable of the year especially for some of the more emotionally intense scenes. It seems as though Ventimiglia and Seyfried are just younger, less charismatic versions of Keanu Reeves and Rachel McAdams which means a version of this film made 10 years ago with those two probably would’ve been better received. Neither performance is necessarily bad, but I never found myself ever really impressed by either one of them and thought they could be easily replaced with any actor in their age range. Moving onto the plot, I really can’t understand why these storylines have to be so dark. I understand that they’re supposed to be a representation of real tragedies that happen in people’s lives, but is that what we come here to see? I think most people want to see a “boy and his dog” type story and that is not present here. While the emotional weight of Enzo’s journey will have an impact on most audience members, it tends to feel a bit generic to the point where it loses some of its meaning.
Overall, for a summer dog movie, The Art of Racing in the Rain serves the needs of its viewers while not doing much more to elevate the source material. It’s a sweet, caring movie, but there are a plethora of sweet, caring movies out there that can emulate their message better than this one. The Art of Racing in the Rain rides the line between an average movie and a good movie with Costner being the main reason why the movie ends up being above-average.
Overall Score: 6/10