The Art of Racing in the Rain (2019) is an American comedy-drama that follows the ongoing trend of dogs on screen. This film, based on a 2008 book of the same title, is directed by Simon Curtis and stars Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried and Kevin Costner. When a pursuing race-car driver, Denny (Ventimiglia) stumbles by a dog adoption centre, he ends up taking a dog home and this film follows the long journey of Denny’s life, from his career to family situations, through the eyes of Enzo the dog.
What set this film aside from other dog films that have come out recently is the secondary plot of the film, which is essentially what drew me into the film. It felt like the driving side plot would be a cool part of a story that is typically cliché, and it worked. Not only did I think it helped drive the plot forward and explain some of the more extreme twists in the film, but also provided for some really cool moments and excellent cinematography.
The story here, particularly for the first half of the film, is touching and very well told. I particularly liked how instead of the owner being fully attached and caring of just the dog, there is an aspect of Enzo the dog being worried that he is going to be forgotten. A lot of dog films seem to present an idea of how dogs are perfect creatures that end up getting 100% of the attention, but this film highlights an aspect of humans caring about each other as well, with the dog also not being 100% good all of the time. It added a sense of realness to the story that made the situation believable.
The acting here is what sells this story, particularly from the leads of Milo Ventimiglia and Amanda Seyfried. Both actors have to sell hard performances full of struggle and emotion, and I bought all of their emotions in the film. A special shout out also has to go to Ryan Kiera Armstrong, who plays their daughter Zoe. As a child actor, she is superb in her role and acts completely as she should.
Unfortunately, it is when the film resorts to the usual dog format of the film that it feels cheesy and takes me out of the story of the film. It is not as often as I expected it to be, and some of the dialogue works for the scenes. It is just when something touching or important that is happening that I don’t want to be taken out of the moment by a talking dog. Whilst some aspects are important to understand the context of the situation or to gain a better connection with Enzo, I wish it was potentially used less here.
This film is extremely emotional, but it starts to get a bit too dramatic after the first half of the film. The film ends up setting up a villain for the family and creates a huge conflict that feels like it was only added on to extend the length of the film. It felt disconnected and forced to me, and whilst I can understand the puzzle pieces that were put together to reach that moment of conflict, I just didn’t buy that situation in a real-life scenario.
There is one running gag in the film that includes Enzo and a stuffed zebra toy that Zoe gets. I will not say any more about it here to keep this review spoiler-free, but I really did not like this running gag. It was a chuckle for the first time or two that it is mentioned in, but then they try to expand on this joke. It worked for other people, as I heard people in my screen laugh when it was mentioned. For me though, it was something I wish they just took out altogether as I just found it weird and awkward, particularly one scene that takes you completely out of reality.
Does this fall in the typical dog film that seems to be produced every year? Yes, it does. But for me, I actually enjoyed this film and the heart that it had. I could have done with less cheesy scenes and more focus on the relationship between the dog and his owner, but I still felt emotion from the story that was being told, and I liked the racing twist that this film had. It added an extra layer to it that made this film a little bit different from the manufactured process these sorts of films usually have. I wouldn’t say you should rush out to the cinema to see it, but perhaps give it a try on streaming or later on.
3/5 Have you seen The Art of Racing in the Rain yet, and what did you make of it? Are these dog films up your alley, or do you avoid them? Let me know in the comments below and let’s have a discussion.