A dog named Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner) looks back on his life from when he was adopted by race car driver Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia) to when Denny starts a family after meeting Eve (Amanda Seyfried). Enzo reflects on all the good times as well as the hardship and tragedy that he tried to help his family through.
With such films as ‘My Week with Marilyn’ and ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ to his name, it’s clear that director Simon Curtis has made a promising career out of schmaltzy narratives. While there’s nothing wrong with a cheesy movie every now and again, it’s hard to get wrapped up in the emotional rollercoaster when you get into reincarnation territory.
If that sounds like the movie ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ (which just had a sequel, ‘A Dog’s Journey’, this year) to you, that’s because we’re essentially dealing with a veeeery similar premise. It’s baffling that these movies linking dogs and existentialism are coming out – do people really look at their canine companions and wonder what their pets think is the meaning of life and humanity?
As with ‘A Dog’s Purpose’, it’s the mutt’s perspective that we see the film events unfold through, provided via voiceover narration from the grizzly but warm vocals of Kevin Costner. Enzo typically just observes and offers his opinion on what is happening but now and again, he takes agency, running into frame, barking for help, or destroying a document to save the day.
Story-wise, it plays out like your typical ‘dog movie’ (not sure if that’s actually a genre but such films as ‘Lady & the Tramp’, ‘101 Dalmatians’ and ‘Marley & Me’ all follow a similar trajectory). His owner Denny (played by the invariably lovely Milo Ventimiglia) meets a girl, falls in love and gets married, much to the chagrin of Enzo who misses Denny’s attention and affections, but when Eve becomes pregnant, Enzo develops a protective attitude towards her. Later, the dreaded ‘C word’ comes into the family’s lives like a train wreck, causing devastation for all, and that’s where the waterworks start.
Between your melodramatic family drama narrative, cute dogs, and Formula One narrative to appeal to dads and car racing enthusiasts in the audience, ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ is broad enough to appeal to all members of the family. However, its lack of originality leaves a sense of dissatisfaction, and the ending – which the movie draaaags to get to – is so strange that you exit the cinema feeling baffled rather than on the emotional high it proposes to leave you with. As a result, it fails in its intention.