Arts movie review

The zebra did it

Understanding human nature from a dog’s perspective

9080 art of racing in the rain
Enzo (Kevin Costner) is the ring bearer in Denny (Milo Ventimiglia) and Eve's (Amanda Seyfried) wedding in 'The Art of Racing in the Rain.'
Doane Gregory/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The Art of Racing in the Rain
Directed by Simon Curtis
Screenplay by Mark Bomback
Starring Kevin Costner, Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Ryan Kiera Armstrong
Rated PG, Now Playing

From Marley & Me to A Dog’s Purpose, we’ve come to know what to expect with movies about man’s best friend: wholesomeness, innocent perspectives, and tears. The Art of Racing in the Rain follows these trends while also introducing a dose of pensiveness via Enzo, sagely voiced by Kevin Costner.

The Art of Racing in the Rain focuses on the story of Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia), an aspiring Formula One race car driver. After adopting Enzo as a puppy, the golden retriever becomes a constant companion to Denny. Enzo often uses race car metaphors to conceptualize the meaning of life and to understand the habits of the humans that surround him as he grows up. When Denny goes through hardships in his life, Enzo often remarks, “There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.” This kind of insight shows Enzo’s vast capacity for empathy and ability to provide a source of comfort for his distressing humans. 

In contrast, some of the people Denny interacts with later in life aren’t the best. They get him arrested over a petty argument and sue him to try to prove a point. Their inability to understand Denny’s circumstances in life and see what’s best for his family boggles the mind, but it’s a convenient foil to the loyalty and love Enzo provides.

Comedic relief is also easily found through the naive understanding of a human world by a dog. Enzo’s demonization of Zoe’s (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) stuffed zebra is a constant throughout the film. This leads to moments of questionable reality shifts and eyebrow-raising schemes that take us away from the heaviness of terminal illness and family tension that unfortunately follows Denny.

The general story is a familiar tale of human strife, but it is colored by the lens of an adorable golden retriever. In doing so, the film immediately tugs at our heart strings, but it also simplifies a lot of the more complex topics, probably so that younger audiences can better digest what is happening on screen. While cute and wholesome, the movie is what you’d expect: a simple story about a great dog and the human he loves so much, and how they go through life together. It’s an enjoyable watch to de-stress with, but nothing that hasn’t already been done before.