The Art of Racing in the Rain - B
Rated PG, 123 minutes
They say that a dog is a man's best friend, and he's been good to the movies too. The unsurprisingly touching, charming new feel-good drama "The Art of Racing in the Rain" takes its cues from many other canine-themed cinematic efforts such as "Marley & Me," "My Dog Skip" and the recent "A Dog's Purpose." It pulls few surprises yet many heartstrings, and you'll need a good helping of tissues to make it through the film.
Denny Swift ("This is Us'" Milo Ventimiglia) is a Formula One race car driver who understands that the techniques needed on the racetrack can also be used to successfully navigate everyday life. Besides his career, Denny has three loves of his life -- his beautiful wife (Amanda Seyfried), their young daughter (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) and his best friend Enzo (voiced by Oscar-winner Kevin Costner), which is a dog that wants to be reincarnated into a human.
If you need a good late-summer cry, then the appealing, sweetly manipulative "The Art of Racing in the Rain" will do just that. It's directed by Simon Curtis ("My Week with Marilyn") and written by Mark Bomback ("Dawn of the Planet of the Apes") based on Garth Stein's best-selling novel of the same name. Ventimiglia, well-known from the hit TV show "This is Us," is used well here, and he helms the film nicely, given that it shares many soapy themes with that show. As his wife, Amanda Seyfried of "Mamma Mia" fame has less footage, but she has some of the film's more touching scenes when she and Enzo form a real bond.
Fans of the book should note that it's mostly a faithful retelling of the book, as told from the dog's point of view, with minimal changes from Stein's central story. Speaking of the dog, the humorous voice over work from Costner as the titular character, a lovely golden retriever, is the film's real charm. Even with all its sweetness, "Racing in the Rain" runs a tad long at 2 hours, and its last act is a little too soapy when it ventures into a child-custody battle that's given too much screen time.
Give the dog a bone, give the human some tissues. By the time you get to the end of "The Art of Racing in the Rain" you'll realize you've gone through a few, and that's just fine. You'll see many of its many predictable plot points before they arrive, but with sweet Enzo around, you probably won't care.