The Art of Racing in the Rain

 

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In another shaggy dog story, a golden retriever looks back on his life with a hapless racing driver.

 

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Minnie driver: a young Enzo with Milo Ventimiglia

 

The art of racing in the rain is a metaphor. And there are a lot of metaphors in this adaptation of Garth Stein’s 2008 novel. The main metaphor is that if a racing driver can create his own conditions, then the rain is just rain. Formula One wannabe Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia) is a promising driver who has mastered the skill of racing in the rain – just like Ayrton Senna before him. But taking the figure of speech further, Denny has a staggering number of hazards and hairpins to manoeuvre in his personal life. And, unlike us, he can never see the next corner coming. But this is not really Denny’s story – this is a film about a golden retriever called Enzo who is obsessed with auto racing. But what do you expect from a dog named after Enzo Ferrari?

 

Voiced by Kevin Costner on Temazepam, Enzo takes us on his personal journey from the very moment Denny buys him on a whim. Prophetically, Enzo tells us, “so I had my first glimpse of the rest of my life.” Enzo seems to know already that one day he will die and end up on a Mongolian plain before being reincarnated as a human. For the time being, though, he is happy to while away his days staring at various Grands Prix on television and accompanying Denny to the track. When Denny wins, Costner drawls, “I felt like I had witnessed true greatness.” He has a way with words, does Costner, so that when he encounters a pregnant belly, he calls it a “magic sack where the baby is being assembled.”  Yet, what might have worked on the written page sounds daft on the big screen, and the inanities just keep coming.

 

Presumably aimed at dog lovers and petrol heads, the film exerts a tone that is hard to get a handle on. The sincerity of the performances cannot be faulted, and the golden retrievers who plays Enzo are a handsome pack, but too often the experience is like watching custard evaporate. Inevitably, comparisons will be made to A Dog’s Purpose (2017) and A Dog's Journey (2019), other shaggy tales narrated from a dog’s eye view, and it doesn’t compare favourably. At least the first two had a livelier step and an honest sentimentality. Here, the drip-drip of treacle is mired in a predictability that is laid on with a poop scoop.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Baker, Martin Donovan, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Gary Cole, McKinley Belcher III, Andres Joseph, Ian Lake, Al Sapienza, Lily Dodsworth-Evans, and the voice of Kevin Costner.

 

Dir Simon Curtis, Pro Patrick Dempsey, Tania Landau and Neal H. Moritz, Screenplay Mark Bomback, Ph Ross Emery, Pro Des Brent Thomas, Ed Adam Recht, Music Dustin O'Halloran and Volker Bertelmann, Costumes Monique Prudhomme.

 

20th Century Fox/Fox 2000 Pictures/Original Film/Starbucks Entertainment/Shifting Gears Productions-20th Century Fox.

108 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 9 August 2019. Cert. PG.