‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ is more than a dog movie, it’s truly redemptive
3.5 stars (out of four)
The Art of Racing in the Rain is very obviously a dog movie but it’s more than that. This will remind people of A Dog’s Purpose or A Dog’s Life recently except for one crucial plot point — and this is not giving anything away for those films because it’s right in the trailer — the dogs in A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Life get reincarnated. They keep coming back again and again as different kinds of dogs.
In this film the leading dog character is a beautiful golden retriever who gives a great animal performance. Certainly if they gave an Oscar — as they should — for Best Performance by an Animal, Enzo the dog would be eligible. In one scene he’s watching a documentary about Mongolia with his owner, and sees that in Mongolia they believe that if dogs learn everything they’re supposed to learn they will come back reincarnated as human beings. And that’s what he is longing to do.
He’s longing to learn enough so he can come back and be a person just like hits master who he adores. The dog is voiced by Kevin Costner — which is kind of an interesting touch — and the master is played by Milo Ventimiglia, who is known as Jack Pearson on This is Us.
The entire movie is set in Seattle. Unlike most Seattle movies this does not appear to have been filmed exclusively in Vancouver. It’s not just the Space Needle. Of course they do show it raining too much as they do in all Seattle movies.
The main character is a race car driver and his big specialty is being able to drive effectively and face adversity while racing in the rain. This is what the dog wants to learn to do, and the film has some extremely heart-tugging moments. It is not all about the death of a dog. But it is about the life of a dog and the dog’s expectation of what happens after his life, which is very cleverly handled.
The narration involves the dog looking back on his life, as well as his lifelong love affair with racing because he sees that as something that his pet parent wants to do and does very well professionally and he wants to be part of that. No, there is no scene where the dog drives a race car. However, there is a payoff to that desire as well.
My experience in watching the movie was to be just totally caught up in it. I mean usually when you go to a movie you’re planning to review, very rarely do you forget about what the review is going to say. I forgot. I was completely taken up with it. The movie is not just a sentimental tearjerker, there are some truly redemptive messages all of which is masterfully handled.
Milo Ventimiglia is mostly a TV actor and hasn’t had a particularly notable film career as of yet, but this could be a breakthrough role for him. It is a great family movie and one of the better movies of the year. I would imagine that Garth Stein, who wrote the popular book, is probably pretty happy with the movie version.