The Dove Take:
While The Art of Racing in the Rain may prove to be too intense in its portrayal of loss for some, there is nothing objectionable about the film, and is Approved for All Ages.
Through his bond with his owner, aspiring Formula One race car driver Denny, golden retriever Enzo learns that the techniques needed on the racetrack can also be used to successfully navigate the journey of life.
Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia) races cars and dreams of moving up to Formula One racing in Europe. When he adopts a puppy, he names the dog Enzo after the founder of the Ferrari race car legacy. The two become best of friends, as Enzo, the film’s narrator, reveals bits of race-related wisdom that he has learned throughout their relationship. After Denny meets Eve (Amanda Seyfried), Enzo’s world changes as he learns to love Eve and the couple’s young child.
While the dramatic arc is Denny’s rise through the racing ranks, the emotional punch occurs when Eve succumbs to cancer, and Denny is forced to choose between his career or wrestling Eve’s parents (Martin Donovan, Kathy Baker) for custody of his child. Unlike the majority of fictional stories played out on the big screen, Stein’s story finds Denny focusing on being a dad and not an absentee father.
Denny and Enzo have a seemingly symbiotic relationship where they teach each other, softening the rougher edges of each one’s personality. Denny is a cool customer on and off the track and sometimes needs a nudge toward making the moves necessary to succeed; Enzo moves past his desire to be reincarnated as a man to fully appreciate his place in the Swift family, recognizing his purpose in caring for the humans he loves. Together, they tackle the grief of losing people they care about and the courage to boldly live their lives in community.
The Art of Racing in the Rain is a wholesome tale (or is it “tail?”) about friendship, responsibility, grief, family, and real love. The main characters choose to make decisions that are selfless and family-oriented that are worthy of discussion. The only caveat for families may be that much of the action (and humor) will be beyond the reach of younger audiences who have less real-world experience.