‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ Review: Smart Dog, Dumb Movie

At first glance, the feeble tear-jerker “The Art of Racing in the Rain” seems to be a movie made for dog lovers. It is told from the perspective of a dog, a beautiful if inexpressive golden retriever named Enzo. But in a twist that undermines the simple-minded sweetness that makes dogs (and dog movies) so appealing, Enzo is not like other pups. He thinks like a person — pondering subjects like death and reincarnation — and he also dreams of being human.

The movie begins when Enzo is already long in the tooth and speaking with the gravelly monotone of Kevin Costner. Narrating his life story in retrospect, Enzo recalls being adopted as a puppy by a racecar driver named Denny (Milo Ventimiglia). As Denny’s companion, Enzo has borne loyal witness to his master’s life, and the film observes Denny through Enzo’s adoring eyes. Enzo is by Denny’s side as he falls in love and marries a kindly teacher, Eve (Amanda Seyfried), and he is steadfast when Denny’s domestic bliss is tested by illness and in-laws.

Through it all, Enzo longs to guide Denny with words as humans do. Although Enzo claims to hold people in high regard, there’s no one in Denny’s life he deems a more worthy counselor than himself. It’s this moral superiority obtained from two feet above the ground that makes Enzo — and the film that indulges this conceit — so intolerable. He’s a scold, a snob and a suck-up all at once. Yet the treacly script valorizes Enzo, and the director, Simon Curtis, submits to it, trusting that the audience will want to see man’s best friend presented in such an earnest fashion. But Enzo is a bad dog, and his antics play worse for the film’s lack of discipline.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Rated PG for bathroom humor and references to cancer. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes.

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