Have you heard anything about this film? No? Don’t feel bad. You’re not the only one who have no idea what The Art of Racing in the Rain is truly about (and making only $8.1 million on its opening weekend showed it).
Most know it revolves around a dog (that’s him up there). And, for those who are aware of the film’s plot or even pet movies in general, it’s viewed as an indicator that moviegoers will be leaving the theater in tears.
But is that the case? Is this just another occasion of Hollywood throwing cheap shots at our heartstrings?
Meet the (Pit) Crew
Narrated by the clever pup Enzo, voiced by Kevin Costner, this is the journey of racer Denny Swift, as viewed by his pet dog. Denny (who is played by Milo Ventimiglia), is a talented driver with Formula 1 ambitions who can’t seem to catch a break.
Until, that is, he meets the girl of his dreams.
Ventimiglia does a fantastic job pulling off the humble, yet confident racer. Audiences will certainly warm up to him quick, pulling for Denny at every turn, on…and off the track. Costner is surprisingly perfect in his portrayal of Enzo. Also, there was an impressive job done by actual dogs chosen for this film. Director Simon Curtis got some fantastic gestures and expressions to make every scene work within the script.
Amanda Seyfried plays her part superbly as Denny’s love interest, Eve. It’s obvious her and Denny are smitten, but similar to Enzo, you never quite know how to feel about her being part of the plot until we’ve arrived in the second act.
That’s by design.
The supporting cast does just enough without taking up too much screen time. It’s a pleasant balance and while no one’s performance will take you out of the rhythm of the movie, by the end, you’ll still hate Denny’s in-laws as if they were your own.
The Rule of Racing
“No race has ever been won in the first corner; many have been lost there.”
Critics have come out swinging against The Art of Racing in the Rain. It received a paltry 43% on Rotten Tomatoes, and that may keep the crowds at home instead of at the theater.
But I’d wave a caution flag at that number.
Other than one or two out-of-character scenes, there’s not much to complain about in this movie. Most criticisms seem to stem from the idea that this film is nothing more than a gross attempt to hit some low-hanging fruit, attacking our emotions by way of man’s best friend. To them I say, keep your eyes on the road.
Falling in love with Enzo, as he wades his way through the ocean of thoughts and feelings of being “just a dog” and wanting so badly to be part of the human experience is nothing short of delightful.
There’s just something about the way Costner delivers these little quotes about racing, and how they apply to life, that will surely resonate with general audiences. In fact, the 96% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes (the same site whose critics ripped this film) proves it.
To be blunt, there simply aren’t many moviegoers who dislike this film. And to me, it’s for one reason: You walk out with a smile.
Don’t get me wrong, this movie can be sad, but it’s not a sad film. You’re going to laugh. You may cry. You will feel anxiety. And, you will certainly feel joy. The Art of Racing in the Rain will take you for a ride through a full range of emotions, which is why makes it so good.
It’s everything a movie should be.
Matrix Grade: 80