Kevin Costner Narrates The Story About A Philosophical Canine & His Race Car Driver Owner As They Live In The World Of Motor Sports In “The Art Of Racing In The Rain”. An Intelligent, Emotional, Wonderful, Funny & Enriching Motion Picture Experience. It’s A Gem Of A Movie & One Of The Best Films This Summer Movie Season Has Had To Offer.
Those who know me know I love dog movies, you know those movies that revolve around the dogs perspective as he narrates the story. It’s easy to say that Owen Wilson’s “Marley & Me” and Dennis Quaid’s “A Dog’s Purpose” and it’s sequel “A Dog’s Journey” are among the best. I love these films not only because they are great, but because I’m a sucker for dogs.
The old adage that “A dog is man’s best friend” is truly not just a myth. My little furry Maltese Mugsy was my best friend, I had him since he was a pup. He loved me unconditionally as I did him and he knew how to give and receive love. He gave off no judgement and there was nothing better than watching his little smiling, furry face or hearing him get so excited at the sound of me coming home. There was nothing worse than having to watch him slowly slip away from the tumor that grew in him. All I could do was continue to love him, hug him and pet him to ease his pain and comfort. Mugsy is now in dog heaven or maybe he abides by the Mongolian legend that a dog “who is prepared” will be reincarnated in his next life as a human.
That’s what Enzo the golden retriever of the new film “The Art Of Racing In The Rain” believes and lives by. Based on the book of the same name, that stayed on the New York Times Best Seller list for three and a half years, has been translated into thirty-eight languages, and after nearly a decade the film adaptation of the popular best selling novel by ex race car driver Garth Stein has made it to the multiplexes.
Hopping from studio to studio, the film in thanks to actor, producer and real life race car driver Patrick Dempsey who produces the film and optioned the book years ago, has finally been able to find a home at Fox 2000. The mid-budget studio that Disney decided to close down after the buyout of Twentieth Century Fox, cancelling a number of projects that were in pre-production. But since principal photography was already completed, “The Art Of Racing In The Rain” is one of the division’s final releases.
The best selling book has been lovingly brought to the big screen in a superb way by director Simon Curtis (“My Week With Marilyn”, “Woman In Gold”) and action film screenwriter Mark Bomback (“War For Planet Of The Apes”, “Total Recall” and “Live Free Or Die Hard”). Everyone involved has created a real crowd-pleaser, a wonderful, funny, joyful and enriching motion picture experience.
“The Art of Racing in the Rain” tells the story of Denny (Milo Ventimiglia), a race car driver who races at Daytona but inspires to drive in Formula One. Denny adopts a little golden retriever puppy and names him Enzo after who else? Other than the icon himself, Enzo Ferrari. The Italian motor racing driver and entrepreneur, the founder of the Scuderia Ferrari Grand Prix motor racing team, and later of the marque Ferrari. Enzo becomes our narrator through the film and is voiced by the great Kevin Costner.
We then get to see Denny’s life play out as he meets a teacher named Eve (Amanda Seyfriend), and they have a daughter named Zoe (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). As his family grows Denny’s dedication to racing is tested, forcing him to make choices between his career and family dreams.
What’s unfortunate here is how the trailers are marketing it as just another dog movie. While yes our canine friend is sometimes the main focus, it’s not just another dog flick. It covers surprisingly heavy emotional terrain and adult situations, with an intelligence level that is more for older audiences.
What makes this stronger than most dog movies is that it hardly aims for the low brow dog humor. Enzo barely causes any mischief, and when he does, it’s always for a good cause and has purpose. The best he does is talk trash, with great one-liners as most of the humor comes from his dialogue and brief visual gags that express Enzo’s inner thoughts. In one of the films big subplots, both Denny and Eve leave him home alone and the camera sticks with Enzo making you feel his anxiousness and the stress of being isolated with nothing but your thoughts. This leads to a brilliant sequence of some interesting scenes involving fantasies Enzo has involving a toy zebra. It’s strange and felt like Enzo was all of the sudden tripping on acid out of nowhere. But man was it funny and it works for how the scene was set-up.
Kevin Costner’s soulful and wise tone is the perfect voice to narrate the philosophical canine. His touching, funny voice work is extraordinary. Costner himself seems more than a little moved by some of the passages he’s reading, you even can catch his voice breaking at one instance.
Milo Ventimiglia is walking the same territory as his multi Emmy-nominated role on NBC’s outstanding drama “This Is Us”, and fans as I am of the series won’t be disappointed with his performance. He’s charming, sensitive, lovable and his lead performance proves he should star in more feature films. His performance never goes over the top as he portrays Denny who handles each situation with a mellow attitude. Ventimiglia acts out the lessons that his character Denny had picked up through his racing career of don’t panic and never quit. Denny’s life has its ups and downs just as he knows as a driver that he can win some and lose some. Ventimiglia is perfectly cast.
Amanda Seyfriend is also very good but doesn’t shine as much as Ventimiglia does. The two have nice chemistry and I bought their dynamic as a caring couple trying to make things work. However, a lot of the common issues that come up in dog movies are given to us once again. It’s just a different dog, different title and different family, however it’s done to much better affect here. As much as I loved “A Dog’s Purpose” or this year’s “A Dog’s Journey”, what we get in “The Art Of Racing In The Rain” is far superior.
The film has a great soundtrack that kicks off with two George Harrison tunes and ends with Creedence Clearwater Revival. I’ll give you one guess which song they used? Although auto racing is a key component and it does ride by with a fair amount of racing metaphors. “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is first and foremost a human and humane story that is done simply gloriously.
“The Art Of Racing In The Rain” is as soulful as far as these films go, with director Simon Curtis having made a handsome, quickly moving film that runs a near two-hours. It’s a real gem of a movie and what a great way to close out these dog days of summer, then with a great film like this one.
GRADE: ★★★★1/2☆ (4 & 1/2 out of 5)