Directed by: Simon Curtis
Screenplay by: Mark Bomback
Based on: “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein
Starring: Milo Ventimigila, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Baker, Martin Donovan, Gary Cole, Kevin Costner
Based on Garth Stein’s novel, “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” Simon Curtis (“Goodbye Christopher Robin,” “Woman in Gold”) tugs at our heartstrings with a story of a dog, Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner) and his human, Denny (Milo Ventimigila) and their adventures together.
The script, adapted by Mark Bomback (“The Wolverine”) takes us on a journey in which we get to experience life through Enzo’s eyes. It starts on a rather somber note - we know Enzo’s fate. By starting out this way, we are steeled for the eventuality of life and, for better or for worse, we get to enjoy Enzo’s life because he believes that a dog who is prepared with life experiences will become human once they’re reborn.
Now, I don’t know if you believe in reincarnation, and that’s not the focal point of the movie. Once the story establishes Enzo’s fate, we are taken back to when Denny first meets Enzo as a puppy. Costner provides his droll sense of comedic timing as Denny struggles to find his place in the world. A race car driver by profession, Denny strives to reach the pinnacle of his profession.
But life gets in the way when Denny meets Eve Swift (Amanda Seyfried) and Enzo clearly understands that he needs to fight for attention. Bomback and Curtis insert a number of driving analogies, anticipating how to take turns and knowing when to back off. This instilled an interesting personality into Enzo as he navigates his world not only through his eyes, but also through Denny’s.
While Enzo has trouble adjusting to Eve being the center of Denny’s attention, it gets even more interesting when Zoe comes into the picture. Enzo knows of the changes in Eve’s moods and body language as she goes through her pregnancy and once Zoe is born, Enzo has a new mission - to protect Zoe.
The most difficult aspect of the entire affair is through Denny’s strained relations with Eve’s parents, Trish (Kathy Baker) and Maxwell (Martin Donovan). Because dogs are highly perceptive to our changes, Enzo reacts swiftly to Maxwell with hilarious results.
Life isn’t all fun and games, and this is the second film this year to explore dog’s innate ability to sense when we are in poor health, leading to Denny’s struggles and challenges in his own life. But, the ever faithful . . . no, the ever loyal Enzo remains dutifully by Denny’s side through thick and thin.
As Denny makes his way through his trials, so too does Enzo, finally submitting to the great beyond, but not before a very special race around a track. As I said, Curtis and Bombeck speed us towards the inevitable, but “The Art of Racing in the Rain” makes life seen through the eyes of a dog and with Kevin Costner’s narration an enjoyable experience.
3 out of 4