“I’m not much of a dog person,” says school teacher Eve (Amanda Seyfried), when she first meets golden retriever, Enzo. “He’s more person than dog,” says Enzo’s owner, Formula-One race-car driver Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia). Enzo (voice of Kevin Costner) doesn’t, at first, know what to think about Eve. “Life with Denny was fine,” he says. “and then, she showed up, with her opposable thumbs and plump bottom.” That’s the setup for “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” a three-generation family story, narrated by the family dog.
Will you be entertained by Enzo’s canine commentary on Milo and Eve’s family? Should you bring your hankie to this sentimental tale? Or are you immune to movies that are mostly heart? For answers, see “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”
Kevin Costner is the voice of Enzo — earnest, loyal, loving and, as he admits, sometimes carried away by his own “admittedly melodramatic imagination.” As he narrates the film, telling the story of Denny (Milo Ventimiglia), wife Eve (Amanda Seyfried), their daughter Zoe (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), and maternal grandparents, Trish (Kathy Baker) and Maxwell (Martin Donovan), he guides us through good times — he’s ring-bearer at Eve and Denny’s wedding — and tough times (spoiler alert), Eve’s diagnosis. Enzo is focused on the family. Denny is full-time focused on his racing career. “I promised I wouldn’t give up,” he says. “No race was ever won at the first corner,” Eve reminds him. When issues develop between grandfather Maxwell and Denny, Enzo is on Denny’s side and takes action to demonstrate it — the film’s only poop joke.
Others in the cast include Lily Dodsworth-Evans as teen-age Zoe and Ian Lake as Mike, Denny’s human best friend.
“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is family entertainment, well directed by Simon Curtis, with Enzo’s charming narration written by Mark Bomback from Garth Stein’s best-selling novel. It’s full of life lessons, expressed — mostly by Enzo — as Zen-like koans. “That which is manifest is before us. We create our own destiny.” “The great driver finds a way to keep racing.” “Your car goes where your eyes go.” And the take-away: “The best drivers don’t focus on the future or the past; they focus only on the present.”
Rated PG for thematic material, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” runs 109 minutes. Stay for the epilogue’s goosebumps. Enjoy.
A dog narrates “Racing in the Rain”;
He’s well-spoken; Enzo is his name;
The story is a dog lover’s treat;
Others may find it a bit too sweet.