“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is coming to theaters this weekend starring Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, and the voice of Kevin Costner, who narrates as the dog Enzo. In this one a race car driver bonds with his pup throughout their life together. This dog over the years has grown to have the same love of racing of his owner. It has given him a better understanding of human nature and life’s meaning which helps him throughout the journey of his own. That being the Costner dog, not the human character just in case that wasn’t abundantly clear. I won’t deny I could possibly love animals more than humans. With a big lovable pup of my own, dogs are clearly a soft spot for me. I love dogs, but I don’t always love dog movies as the themes tend to get too cheesy for me. The great “Turner & Hooch” excluded.
This one features a dog voiced by Kevin Costner who serves as both the conscience of the dog Enzo, and as the narrator of the overall story. He fills in backdrop on the characters and provides story exposition, while also conveying his own thoughts. So, you don’t have to worry about a dog moving its mouth to the dialogue in this one, thank goodness. However, this was still just an odd movie overall to me, and maybe a visibly talking dog could’ve helped. It isn’t horrible by any means. But it does have a made-for-TV feel to it in terms of everything being overly pristine and artificial looking. The performances though are the shining light but not the saving grave. This movie being released in theaters during the summer season it’s a bold choice. This is from Fox 2000 Pictures now under the Disney umbrella, so I would assume it was one of the pre-acquisition titles that they wanted to just roll out to get off the books.
It’s also hard to gauge the target demo. It certainly hits topics too depressing for kids but does so in such a heavy-handed way it’s hard to see middle-aged people connecting with it more than just from surface level. There were parts of this one I liked. There were things I certainly didn’t, and a lot of tropes I didn’t like seeing slapped together. I think the lead performance from Ventimiglia was solid, but he could only do so much. He captured a large range of sincerity that was at times able to tame the flood of melodrama. However, the key part of that statement being ‘at times’ because my main issue with this film was the overabundance of sappy drama that was layered way too thick to the point it felt blatantly manipulative.
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While the tone of the film is meant to be uplifting, it was still a complete downer while watching. I think a couple of strong, emotionally driven tropes in a plot are more than acceptable. Yet this one felt the need to lay it on so thick it felt like a combination of all the worst moments from five people’s lives. All piled onto one person for the sake of cinematic drama. You get kicked in the crotch once you feel it. Get kicked twice it hurts a little less. But after so many repeated blows to a man, I found myself sitting in my seat already haven given up for him. And it killed nearly all of the dramatic intensity.
I think that individually these sections of the movie are nicely woven with genuine dialogue to create sincere and heartfelt moments. But when strung together they felt forced and more than a little on the contrived side as it tried too hard to hit seemingly every heart-string. I do think the performances were all more than capable. Ventimiglia was great in the lead, he elevated the material and did carry the film I suppose. Seyfried brought the movie even more sentiment with a very authentic, emotionally driven portrayal of her character. Costner as the dog voice on the other hand, was not the upbeat part of the film I was hoping for and honestly he was too mundane and depressing. He virtually created a dog that needs to see a therapist and it was a miss for me.
The clunky dialogue and Costner’s drawn-out monotone did a great job of deflating nearly all of my enthusiasm. The slow delivery of some humor worked, and in other places it didn’t. I think a slightly more cheerful tone could have made a couple other scenes hit more. Also, with certain choices in dialogue there were some odd moments that made the tone of the story seem completely uneven. It would hit you with a hard, highly emotional, life impacting moment. Then contrast it with forced attempts at humor in the very following scene and it was a little awkward. There wasn’t much flow in the transition from lighthearted to dramatic and it created a roller coaster of emotions with only highs and the lowest of lows. I enjoyed certain layers of this one on their own, and felt the performances carried things along as best they could. Yet despite attempting to be uplifting, it just made me want to go watch something happy.