The Art of Racing In The Rain – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Simon Curtis
Starring: Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Baker, Martin Donovan, Gary Cole, Kevin Costner (voice)
Based on the best selling book of the same name by Garth Stein, Kevin Costner hits a career high voicing the star of this movie Enzo the Golden Retriever. The plot is basically him reflecting on his life with his owner Denny (Ventimiglia) and his wife Eve (Seyfried) and daughter Zoe. As Denny and his family go through the dramas and challenges that life throws at people Enzo is always there observing and philosophising about it.
There’s no dressing it up – this is designed to just shamelessly pull at your heart strings. There are plenty of close ups of Enzo’s big brown eyes and he narrates tragedies with a gravitas that is designed to bring a tear to the eye. However, Costner sounds a bit “gruff” to be the voice of such a cute canine. Especially since for much of the film he is quite a young dog. It’s like when you hear a mature voice coming out of a young person and is somewhat disjointing in places.
Ventimiglia basically plays his Papa Pearson character from This is Us. Although Denny has some huge ups and downs he remains stoic rather than getting emotional. His relationship with the dog is great but he and Seyfried are somewhat lacking in chemistry. All of the characters suffer from two dimensional writing. There is little or no layering or character development and their actions often feel somewhat contrived.
Since Denny is a racing driver lots of scenes are set on the track and these never manage to capture the excitement that accompanies this sport. Fans of racing will be thrilled at brief glimpses of some classic races and racing heroes. However, if you are not a fan there are many references that may go over your head. Outside of the racing scenes the cinematography is lovely. It’s almost otherworldly in fact. Perhaps this is to convey how Enzo sees the world. It is like an oil painting at times.
I haven’t read the book that this is based on so I can’t comment on how it compares to it. As a movie though it is an exercise in sentimentality, which is fine. Sometimes that’s what you want. They absolutely want to bring a tear to the eye and use every trick in their artillery to do it.
This is more like a Hallmark movie than a big screen offering. It is whimsical and emotional. It’s not bad and indeed there are worse ways to spend two hours than in the company of Enzo. However, it is extremely predictable. Sweet like saccharine this would actually make a good movie for a family outing as the kids will love it.