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Pet profundity

Milo Ventimiglia (Doane Gregory/20th Century Fox)

Movie

Pet profundity

The absurd Art of Racing in the Rain spotlights a dog’s journey of self-discovery

Judging by the preponderance of paw-print bumper stickers, furry lives matter more than ever. Hollywood has always made animal movies, but no major release is as self-serious about a canine’s “humanity” as The Art of Racing in the Rain. Conceptually, whether or not commercially, the new film is one giant leap for dogkind.

The film presents itself as a traditional family drama. Race car driver Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia) hopes to compete on the Formula One circuit. He falls in love and gets married, and he and his wife Eve (Amanda Seyfried) have a daughter. Then tragedy strikes, followed by a far-fetched legal turn of events that sends the second half of the film on a whole new arc.

All the while, Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner), Denny’s golden retriever, narrates every detail. Enzo laments his inability to talk (to the Swifts), and copes as newcomers monopolize his beloved Denny’s time. (Still, I counted six occasions when Denny smooches his pooch’s head.) Enzo bears the rings at Denny and Eve’s wedding, and pontificates:

“If a driver has the courage to create his own conditions, then the rain [the film’s metaphor for adversity] is simply rain.”

Fine. But absurdity reigns. For example, Enzo believes the daughter’s stuffed zebra is demon-possessed. Is this repeated hallucination played for laughs? Nope. In A Dog’s Purpose, at least the human characters learn something about themselves. The Art of Racing in the Rain is all about a dog’s self-discovery. Enzo watches and reflects, preparing to be reincarnated as a person.

“Not all dogs return as men,” Enzo says. “Only those who are ready. I am ready.”

Can you guess the ending?

The PG rating fails to note brief sexuality and two misuses of God’s name. On a positive note, the film calls pregnancy “amazing … a baby being assembled.” The three other audience members at the showing I attended seemed riveted, shedding happy tears. It’s also sad, though, when people forget their pets’ place.

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  •  SleeperSRT10's picture
    SleeperSRT10
    Posted: Fri, 08/23/2019 08:33 am

    Great movie!  Take it in for it's entertainment value.  You'll shed a few tears, but overall, I think you will enjoy it.

  • CanoeTime
    Posted: Fri, 08/23/2019 02:13 pm

    We loved the film. For sure it's from the genre of stories with animals that speak (at least narrate) their thoughts in English. That covers Peter Rabbit, Narnia and Benji movies. All stories that have great life lessons of varying detail, but are weak foundations for detailed theology.  However, The Art of Racing in the Rain drives through tangible potholes in life that many will encounter in a way that fantasy adventures cannot. Having walked through some of those losses myself, I found this an effective PG path to visiting with gentleness what death while caring for someone in hospice at home is like.

    The key to this movie is in the name, not the dog. It's a story of friends, family, love, and resilience. Literature wise, the dog, Enzo, as sweet as he is simply a tool to let us walk alongside the family and learn what people are truly like when they think no one is watching. He is part of the family but not deified, simply there listening, learning, and sharing candid observations. This is the nature of the speaking/thinking animal genre. It's fun to watch, sincere, values life, and for those that know the wounds first hand, it will be a good place for conversations of the heart and faith to begin.