Review: Is It Raining on My Face or Is It ‘The Art of Racing In The Rain’?

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the art of racing in the rain
© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.
the art of racing in the rain
© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a movie involving a dog as a main character will make you cry. Even if, like me, you cry at movies only about once a year (if that). The Art of Racing In The Rain combines the pup with some surprisingly heavy family drama for a one-two punch that will hit you right in the feels. (Minor spoilers to follow.)

The Art of Racing In The Rain follows golden retriever Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner) through his whole life, starting from adorable puppyhood – when he is adopted by race car driver Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia). Enzo is fascinated by racing, and through his bond with his owner, he learns that the techniques needed on the racetrack can also be used to successfully navigate the journey of life.

While we see this story through Enzo’s eyes, it’s also a story about Denny as he tries to make a name for himself in racing, falls in love (with teacher Eve, played by Amanda Seyfried), starts a family (Ryan Kiera Armstrong plays Denny and Eve’s daughter, Zoe), and experiences the ups and downs of life. The highs and lows are punctuated by Enzo’s interpretations – whether it’s Enzo saying “I hoped it would look like me” about Eve’s baby bump or lamenting his lack of a voice and opposable thumbs when it comes to preventing tragedy or speaking up for himself in a time of crisis.

This film is pretty much what it says on the tin: by turns a heartwarming and heartbreaking story about a man and his dog, and the family they form together. It will make you laugh, and it will definitely make you cry. The downs for Denny, Enzo, and family took a surprisingly dark turn – darker than I feel you normally see in these types of films. As tough as it was to watch the characters I’d come to root for go through illness and legal and financial troubles, it made you root for the bright spots all the more. Ventimiglia, Seyfried, and Armstrong do fantastic work that really pulls at your heartstrings and makes you wish only the best for them.

Seeing the story through Enzo’s eyes added another layer to the family dynamic and a sometimes whimsical element to the storytelling. Case in point: a demonic zebra (in actuality, one of Zoe’s beloved stuffed toys) plays a key role in several scenes. It’s interesting to see the conclusions that Enzo draws – even when they are nontraditional, they land on universal truths.

The Art of Racing In The Rain isn’t reinventing a genre here, but it’s a solid film that will really make you feel. If you have a dog in your family (especially if that dog, like mine, is a golden retriever like Enzo), be warned that you should probably pack some tissues.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is in theaters now.