Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
A dog’s relationship with his human family
Anthropomorphism of animals—giving them human minds, emotions and reasoning / In what ways does this sometimes even some adults?
Where did CANCER come from? Answer
Dealing with grief
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
What kind of world would you create? Answer
Kevin Costner … Enzo—a dog (voice)
Milo Ventimiglia … Denny Swift—Zoe’s father, Eve’s husband, Enzo’s owner and a race car driver
Amanda Seyfried … Eve Swift—Trish and Maxwell’s daughter, Denny’s wife and Zoe’s mother
Martin Donovan … Maxwell Swift—Eve’s father, Trish’s husband and Zoe’s grandfather
Ryan Kiera Armstrong … Zoe Swift, Denny and Eve’s daughter and Trish and Maxwell’s granddaughter
Lily Dodsworth-Evans … Teenage Zoe
Gary Cole … Don Kitch
Kathy Baker …
McKinley Belcher III … Mark Finn—Denny’s friend and lawyer
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Fox 2000 Pictures
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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company
Enzo (in narrator form voiced by Kevin Costner) may be just a dog, but that doesn’t make him any less loved by his owner, Denny (Milo Ventimiglia). Since adoption, it was just the two of them. They loved running, playing together, and especially watch racing together. Denny later becomes a racecar driver, and Enzo just seems happy being his biggest supporter.
One day, Denny meets Eve (Amanda Seyfried) and they fall in love, much to Enzo’s initial disapproval. Of course, with Eve and Denny eventually marrying, there’s more changes and challenges to come for this dog and his family.
This dog movie is no like other films in the genre. It has a slower-paced, more nuanced feel about it. And despite some (much-needed) humorous moments, they are less frequent than what you might expect. This is a serious family drama with some fairly heavy stuff in places. The script definitely has complex elements, despite the overall story being relatively straightforward.
Most of this approach comes from the thinking of Enzo himself. Voiced very nicely by Costner, Enzo creates a more sophisticated and philosophical perspective on life compared to his human owners. Meanwhile, Seyfried and Ventimiglia give emotionally-convincing and very solid performances as Denny and Eve.
The overall pacing of the film is a bit of a problem. It starts out slow and hard to get into. Its’ when Eve enters the picture that things become much more engaging. The last half-hour moves a little slow also. The overall ending is very strong, with a satisfying final experience for Enzo.
The film’s primary message is a nice one, and it’s implied through the film’s title. Enzo and the film suggest that life will have its downpours and rain (or unpredictable elements, as the dog mentions). Enzo mentions that it’s our job to “keep racing,” or keep living life—moving forward—even in the toughest trials of life. Denny certainly struggles, but he doesn’t let that stop him from living his life to the best of his ability. Throughout the Bible, we see many examples of characters who went through really tough times, but kept living their lives for God as best they could.
There’s also some solid examples of self-sacrificial love here too. Eve clearly encourages Denny to pursue his dreams, even if it meant missing an important event or two. She clearly tells him to not let her get in the way of his dreams. Yet at the same time, Denny impressively balances his love for his family with his career. While he’s certainly no perfect role model, it is clear that he does it all for his wife and daughter.
Language: In a heated argument, Denny spits out “what the h***?” twice, and his opponent misuses Jesus’ name once. Beyond that, I counted 9 uses of “oh my g**.”
Adult Content: Eve and Denny kiss multiple times. In one scene, we see them wrestling around in bed. (He’s only wearing underwear while Eve is fully-dressed; but it is implied that they slept together) Enzo mentions he understands why he’s attracted to her and her “plump buttocks” (the camera zooms in on her clothed rear end as he says this). After they marry, we see Eve get out of the shower with a towel around her. She opens her towel up to see herself in the mirror (we don’t see any nudity). In one other moment, Eve’s bare shoulders are seen.
Violence: Car crashes and dangerous accidents are mentioned. In one other scene, two characters get into a minor fight. One is smacked aside harshly, and breaks a rib (and possibly his wrist, too). Enzo hallucinates a stuffed animal stabbing another and then tears the stuffing out of himself. Later, we hear a daughter screaming. We then see a bunch of torn up stuffed animals with stuffing everywhere (this might upset sensitive children). Character hit by a car.
Alcohol: Beer bottles are seen in one or two scenes. Eve’s dad downs a couple of alcoholic beverages too.
Other: A few dog bathroom gags are seen. As a puppy, Enzo urinates a couple of times indoors. After being accidentally left at home for a few days, we see that he had a few accidents on the doormat. As an older dog, we see him lying in a puddle of urine. And, after ingesting a spicy pepper, we hear him defecate in a diarrhea-like substance on the carpet (we see the resulting mess).
One character vomits. There is a discussion of a tapeworm. A father is shown to be manipulative and controlling over his granddaughter. In terms of emotionally-upsetting scenes, someone contracts a disease (presumably cancer) and later dies. At the end, Enzo is hinted at coming close to the end of his life.
In the meantime, there is quite a bit of mixed spiritual content here too. Enzo mentions that he saw a documentary on Mongolia about his ancestors roaming after death. He also agrees with their belief in reincarnation, that dogs that lived good lives can come back again as humans. The very end of the film seems to agree on that sentiment.
Enzo believes a stuffed zebra is a demon out to ruin his family. Hearing about a racer’s tragic death, he believes that the racer’s “body had finished its purpose.” He also mentions that he’s doing what the universe wants him to do. One character believes that death isn’t the end, and Enzo later admits he saw that character’s soul leave upon passing.
Based on Garth Stein’s novel, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is a serious, yet sometimes lightweight and fun rumination on a dog’s life. Yes, we’ve seen plenty of dog movies before (there were two others this year alone), but this one has a more mature and sophisticated tone to it. With a more emotionally-rounded script, and some solid performances, “Rain” is definitely better than “A Dog’s Way Home” from earlier this year.
However, in spite of a PG-rating, I cannot recommend this film for younger kids. It hits on emotionally-heavy subjects (death, terminal illness, separation) that may prove to be too much for some. And, it features overt discussion (and references) to reincarnation and Eastern spirituality. I didn’t find it to be as overt (or weird) as “A Dog’s Purpose”, but there’s still enough here that many parents may find very concerning.
Ultimately, I thought it was a fairly good movie. And, teens and adults that can navigate the film’s spiritual and emotional elements may think similarly. However, I would definitely take the content concerns into consideration before making a decision for your family.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.