Based on the 2008 novel by Garth Stein, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” gives a more mature insight to a dog’s perspective, not dissimilar to the “A Dog’s Purpose” franchise. Told from the pup’s perspective, this slice-of-life film shows the ups and downs of Enzo’s, and his owner, Denny’s, lives over a period of more than 10 years. However, what could be a heartwarming movie about man’s best friend often comes off as contrived and false, as a constant focus on the multiple conflicts distracts from what could have been an otherwise beautiful exploration into Enzo and Denny’s bond through the years.
Enzo, a wise, philosophical Golden Retriever has lived with Denny, a race car driver and instructor, near Seattle ever since he was a small puppy. More self-aware than other dogs, Enzo, named after the founder of Ferrari, evaluates his life from the moment he was adopted by Denny, using the advice Denny has for being a successful race car driver and applying it to their lives together. Recalling all the various lessons and experiences he has had during his life as a dog, from visiting the race track, to new additions in their pack, and other dramatic life changes, Enzo realizes what a full life he has had and how lucky he was to be able to have it.
“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is at its strongest when it celebrates its characters. Enzo, voiced by Kevin Costner, is incredibly easy to love, as designed, and his line delivery as the ever-thoughtful, almost-human pup is perfect for getting just that across. Similarly, Milo Ventimiglia and Amanda Seyfried are convincing in their characters, showing us their highs and lows in ways that make it easy to care about them. When the film celebrates the characters and explores their relationships, it is a great movie. However, the script spends the majority of the last half of the film instead piling on multiple conflicts in a style not dissimilar to soap operas of days gone by, not allowing any of them the chance to breathe or connect as they did in the first act. Creating a distance between the audience and the characters that didn’t exist until the last half, the drama that is squeezed into the film rings overbearing and false.
When it boils down to it, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is a sweet and sentimental movie. Sure to generate a tear from both dedicated fans of the book and those who had never heard of it, its core story about the unbreakable bond between man and dog rings genuine. Bogged down by enough conflict to fill three movies, that message becomes diluted, but its heart is always present.
Rose Dunton, originally of Nampa, has been living in Pocatello for the past four years. Proficient in Japanese, she is an avid film buff.