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The Art of Racing in the Rain (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

The Art of Racing in the Rain


Starring Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Martin Donovan, Gary Cole, Kathy Baker, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Ian Lake, McKinley Belcher III, Andres Joseph, Donald Heng, Lily Dodsworth-Evans, Karen Holness, Al Sapienza, Nakita Kohan, Aliza Vellani, Elizabeth Bowen, Ian Lake, Grayson Maxwell Gurnsey, Ian Hawes and the voice of Kevin Costner.

Screenplay by Andrea Berloff.

Directed by Simon Curtis.

Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. 109 minutes. Rated PG.

Just watching the trailer for The Art of Racing in the Rain, you can tell that the filmmakers are planning on playing with your emotions big time. After all, what is more beautiful than the unconditional love of a dog? But dogs grow old, right? And families and work and human problems get in the way. This can’t end well, can it?

The trailer even telegraphs the film’s potential pathos by stating simply that it is “from the studio that brought you Marley & Me,” another shameless heartstring-tugging dog movie.

And you know what? The Art of Racing in the Rain is barefacedly manipulative. Almost everything in the film is designed to either make you go “aww!” or to make you sob. It is sappy, a bit cheesy, and in many ways makes no sense as far as storyline goes. (For example, how can a puppy have a total understanding of the rules of automobile racing from the first time he is taken to a track – despite the fact that he doesn’t speak English, and that he’s… you know… a dog?)

Yes, The Art of Racing in the Rain is hardwired to make you emotional. That is its only real purpose. Which does not necessarily make it a bad movie. If you know what you are getting into, it can be rather cathartic.

After all, dogs themselves elicit a similar reaction. They are only there to make you happy, or excited, or to feel loved – to elicit an emotional response. Why shouldn’t a movie about a dog do the exact same thing?

Well, because a movie is not a dog, even when it is a movie about a dog. Little things like characterization and plot points and story line matter. Just jumping all over us is not going to get it done.

That said, the dog at the heart of the story – a Golden Retriever named Enzo (after the founder of Ferrari) is cute. Truly adorable. Just watching him frolic for 109 minutes might be suitably entertaining. But then The Art of Racing in the Rain had to go and mess things up by putting a rather melodramatic storyline on top of everything.

It also adds an often-sappy voice-over to the whole thing, supposedly the thoughts of the dog, as voiced by Kevin Costner.

Enzo spends his life with Denny (Milo Ventimiglia), a car racer who specializes in racing in wet conditions. Denny stops at a puppy mill on a whim and knows right away that he and Enzo are meant to spend their lives together. Enzo is there through the highs and lows of his career, when Denny meets the woman he loves (Amanda Seyfried), gets married and has a daughter with her, through family problems and heartache.

In fact, Denny and Enzo have such a magical connection that it appears that they know what the other one is thinking, even though one is a human and one is a dog.

Yet, though you know that your emotions are being played like a fiddle, I have to admit I kind of liked The Art of Racing in the Rain. The movie is like Enzo, big, fluffy, enthusiastic, a little dumb, but loyal to a fault and its only wish is to be loved, and make us feel happy, or at least feel something.

And I did mention that the dogs playing Enzo (both as a puppy and as an adult) are cute as hell, right? Sometimes that’s all you need.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: August 9, 2019.

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