THE ART OF RACING THE RAIN – Review by Susan Granger

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Based on Garth Stein’s best-selling 2008 novel, this dramedy is about a golden retriever named Enzo (raspy voiced by Kevin Costner) whose earnest owner, Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia), named him after Italian racing legend Enzo Ferrari. “I was meant to be his dog,” Enzo notes.

Set in Seattle, the tepid story opens as elderly Enzo is nearing death, so his esoteric reminiscences and erudite, philosophical observations are presented as flashbacks.

Denny’s goal is to achieve success as a race car driver; his particular skill is his ability to drive effectively and face adversity while racing in the rain.

Along the way, Denny meets and marries angelic Eve (Amanda Seyfried). “Denny was clearly taken with her grooming,” Enzo warily observes. “She probably bathed every day…I loathed the attention he lavished on her – with her opposable thumbs and plump butt.”

Eventually, of course, shaggy Enzo accepts Eve and becomes protective of their daughter Zoe (young Ryan Kiera Armstrong/teenage Lily Dodsworth-Evans). But there’s no love lost between Enzo and Eve’s wealthy, disapproving parents (Kathy Baker, Martin Donovan).

When he’s not in the car, Enzo loves to watch television with Denny, particularly a documentary about Mongolia where certain tribes believe that, if dogs learn everything they’re supposed to learn, they will be reincarnated as human beings.

Predictably adapted by Mark Bomback (“War for the Planet of the Apes”) and leisurely directed by Simon Curtis (“Goodbye Christopher Robin”), it’s contrived, veering toward overly melodramatic, not unlike “Marley & Me,” “A Dog’s Purpose” and “A Dog’s Life.”

Best known for TV’s “This Is Us,” Milo Ventimiglia acquits himself admirably on the big screen. His racing scenes were filmed at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park during the WeatherTec Championship Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is a soapy, sentimental 6, resulting in a soggy handkerchief.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.