Just one more lap. The racer and his Golden Retriever, Enzo, are best friends in The Art of Racing in the Rain. Kevin Costner voices Enzo, who is philosophical and narrates the film. Milo Ventimiglia plays Denny Swift, the racer who has a rough ride. He is a bold and talented driver hoping to join a winning Formula One racing team.
Denny has some steadfast friends who stay with him as he moves through life. They are looking forward to more and more success. Denny has many maxims shared by Enzo such as “a race is never won in the first corner.” Enzo regrets his floppy tongue that prevents him from speaking his wisdom. Despite his silence, he speaks loudly at a crucial moment in the story’s development, eating Denny’s “homework.”
Enzo helps Denny meet Eve when Enzo approaches her enthusiastically. Despite the couple’s love, Eve’s wealthy parents fear for their daughter. They are worried about the danger, travel and unavailability that come with the racing profession.
As I planned to go to the movie, I was apprehensive because I imagined a story with suspense and long race scenes. It turns out that I didn’t see Denny racing as much as I expected. Some racing footage was taken from within Denny’s car and he watched those films to help improve his racing performance. Denny seemed to teach younger drivers as much as he was racing himself. There were many emotional beats through the movie, but not the ones I expected.
The Art of Racing in the Rain is constructed with Denny facing life’s emotional challenges with grace. There’s an undercurrent of conflict between Eve’s parents and Denny. Eve’s parents selfishly think they know what’s best for their granddaughter Zoe. In the middle of the film, there is some plodding storytelling. I realize that after Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel, I need to recalibrate my expectations of action to a more earthly plane.
Enzo has tried to learn as much as he can about the art of being human. He is confident that he will return as a human in his next life. Denny’s career is not as glorious as he had hoped, but he keeps showing that he can excel when faced with challenges.
The Art of Racing in the Rain is not a high-speed race. It doesn’t apologize for making the audience to feel sad, but it is not depressing nor a lofty fantasy. The movie doesn’t need to take another lap because it shows what can happen in life after the first corner.