“The Art of Racing in the Rain” stars Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Baker, Martin Donovan, Gary Cole, and Kevin Costner. Released on August 9, 2019, the film chronicles a dog and his relationship with his human family.
The film is directed by Simon Curtis, who also directed films such as “My Week with Marilyn”, “Woman in Gold”, and “Goodbye Christopher Robin”. It is based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Garth Stein. 2019 has been a pretty solid year for dog lovers when it comes to film. We had a film back in January about a dog attempting to find its way home, and then later on, we had a film that continues the adventures of a reincarnating canine. Now, we have another dog-related film that’s a bit more dramatic than the ones I mentioned. Despite the fact that most of the films that involve dog-and-human relationships aren’t exactly critical darlings, they always have the tendency to impress a ton of people who have strong connections to their four-legged companions. From the looks of the marketing, it appears that this latest family drama could be another suitable addition to the list of sentimental dog films. Since I already reviewed the last two talking dog films this year, it wouldn’t make sense to me if I didn’t give this one a shot as well. Knowing that my mother and I are passionate dog people (in case you forgot), it’s just something that I refuse to avoid.
Told from the perspective of a dog named Enzo (voiced by award winner Kevin Costner), the story showcases the ups and downs of race car driver Denny Swift (Ventimiglia), from adopting Enzo to raising his family with his wife Eve (Seyfried). Enzo’s mission is to make sure that his human family stays strong during their rough times. You know, like any other dog would do for their owners. I can already tell that this film is similar to “A Dog’s Purpose”, “A Dog’s Way Home”, and "A Dog's Journey" for a couple of reasons. It has a dog narrating his thoughts and feelings towards its human owners along with plenty of moments that were as emotional as the ones from “This is Us”. You know, I’m surprised that they haven’t made an anthology series based on this concept yet. It obviously followed the same pattern as the film adaptations of W. Bruce Cameron’s novels in terms of its concept and emotional beats, and I was OK with it. When it comes to the story, it had a difficult time preventing itself from being a bit too sappy in some cases. There were a couple of times where I got teary-eyed by its thought-provoking and heartfelt bond between Enzo and Denny’s family, but everything else was shoehorned down my throat instead of allowing these things to flow like the wind. The film also had some trouble with its pacing. It’s an hour and 50 minutes long, but it felt like it was over two hours long, which may make young kids feel a bit uneasy. Luckily, it didn’t impact Simon Curtis’ passionate storytelling in a bad way. I was really invested in this story because these things could happen to just about everybody, whether they’re good or bad. It’s far from perfect, but it had the right amount of charm and heart to make any dog lover feel proud of their doggie friends. Milo Ventimiglia and Amanda Seyfried were both great together as Denny and Eve, respectively. Their chemistry was one of the elements that held the film together for me because…well, it’s just so darn cute. If I have a relationship like that, that would be awesome. Kevin Costner was a hit-and-miss as the voice of Enzo. On the one hand, he did a nice job at narrating the story. On the other hand, there were some moments where he sounded like he got up at three in the morning to record his lines. No offense to Mr. Costner, but I prefer Josh Gad’s narration from “A Dog’s Purpose” and “A Dog’s Journey” since he brought plenty of fun and energy into voicing the dog’s inner thoughts.
Overall, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is exactly what you would expect from a dog-related family drama: Overly sentimental, but admittedly touching. It’s not going to win any awards due to its flawed emotional beats, but it’s heartwarming enough for me to recommend it to those who are in a mood for something that’ll make them both happy and sad. This is another film that represents one of the reasons why dogs exist with us. They bring us together during the good days and even the bad days. They comfort us whether we’re glad, upset, or even depressed. They can be a handful, no doubt about that, but in times of need, they’re always there to support you, no matter what. It’s not a groundbreaking portrayal of the concept, but it does show that a dog’s love is one of the things that make a family bond stronger than steel.