The Art of Racing in the Rain (2019)

Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Baker, Martin Donovan, Gary Cole, Kevin Costner

Screenplay: Mark Bomback

109 mins. Rated PG for thematic material.

 

I’m not really sure who came up with the dog-narrates-the-movie subgenre of film, but it’s a little weird, right?

The Art of Racing in the Rain, from director Simon Curtis (Goodbye Christopher Robin, Woman in Gold) is the story of a dog named Enzo (Kevin Costner, The Postman, The Highwaymen) and his owner Denny (Milo Ventimiglia, Creed II, TV’s Heroes). Denny is a GT race driver, but when he isn’t racing, he’s hanging out with Enzo, a racer at heart who loves him unconditionally. Enzo recounts his life, and all the ups and downs of his and Denny’s journey together.

I went into this one with pretty low expectations. This subgenre just doesn’t really do it for me, and I find that most of these films have the same general story outline. I was pleasantly surprised, though, with The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s very imperfect, but I found that I was so invested in Denny’s story that the Enzo narration and inclusion really only helped it along that path, and I was enthralled to see where it would end up.

It’s also the type of movie that I needed to see when I went to it. I hadn’t planned for Denny’s story to inspire me in the way it did. It’s not a fun movie at all. In fact, Denny’s story is full of tough moments, and it is in that way that the relationship between human and pet is really well-examined. I felt included, too, as a pet owner, even though my pet of choice is a cat. Unlike many of these films, where the dog is seen as heroic and there’s always an angry antagonistic cat, I felt like The Art of Racing in the Rain is about the bond between humans and animals and not so specific a pet as just saying it’s about dogs. It’s a movie about bonds.

The screenplay, by Mark Bomback (Total Recall, War for the Planet of the Apes) is nicely put together, with a few small problems littered throughout it. There’s some dialogue in the film from narrator Enzo that comes off as strange and unusual without much elaboration. Being someone who has not read the source material, I’m sure it was explained and made more sense in the book, but in the film it just didn’t translate all that well. There’s also this inclusion of the zebra scenes, which I found didn’t translate well either. I know, that already sounds silly, but let me explain. There are several scenes in the finished film that center around Enzo’s fear of a stuffed zebra toy at the house. He goes so far as to call it a demon, and I think that it kind of works with one exception, a dream sequence in which the zebra toy comes to life, something that looks absolutely silly in a section of the movie that it supposed to be very silly.

I’ve been a fan of Milo Ventimiglia’s since Heroes and I really liked him in the film, and I think the chemistry between his character and Eve (Amanda Seyfried, Les Misérables, Gringo) was particularly strong. In fact, the principle cast of the film does some admirable work even throughout some of the more melodramatic story beats, and overall, I don’t think any of them failed to convey the story.

Although, I will say the best performance in the film comes from Kevin Costner narrating Enzo’s story. This should have been something that I kept thinking about in my head. “Kevin Costner is voicing a dog…Kevin Costner is voicing a dog.” I was never once taken out of the film due to that, and I think it’s a tougher sell than anything else in this film, especially when comparing the way Enzo sees Denny as a father figure and yet Kevin Costner is much older than Milo Ventimiglia. It all worked for me quite well.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is imperfect, but even throughout all that, it’s probably the best film is this trend of dog-narration movies. I liked all the actors and voice work and the script accomplishes a lot of things that I didn’t expect to work. There’s some bumps along the way but overall this was a more impressive film than I expected. Now, I don’t think everyone will share in my thoughts about the film. It just happened to be the perfect film for what I needed on the day I saw it. The theater staff should be handing out free Kleenex for this one.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 20 – Monsters University (2013)

 monstersuniversity2013a

Director: Dan Scanlon

Cast: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren

Screenplay: Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Dan Scanlon

104 mins. Rated G.

 

Pixar sequels scare me. I wasn’t a big fan of Toy Story 2. I hated Cars 2. Toy Story 3 was great, but it felt like the exception that proved the rule. When Pixar announced that my favorite property Monsters, Inc. was getting a prequel, I was both shocked and intrigued by the concept. When I discovered that we would be seeing the story of Mike and Sully meeting in college, I was still very confused. Then, I saw it…

monstersuniversity2013b

In Monsters University, we get another look into the unique universe that Pixar created where monsters exist and get energy from the screams of children, where a young monster named Mike Wazowski (TV’s The Comedians, When Harry Met Sally…) experiences disapproval by his peers in his attempts to become a professional scarer. But he finds a new rival in fellow student Sully (John Goodman, TV’s Roseanne, The Gambler). When both students are kicked out of the scaring program, they decide to join Oozma Kappa, a failing fraternity, in an effort to win the Annual Scare Games and earn their way back into the scaring program, proving to their judgmental Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren, The Queen, Woman in Gold) that they have what it takes.

Pixar has great timing. Releasing Monsters University at a time when fans of the original film are entering the college portion of their lives is perfection, much in the same way they did with Toy Story 3 a few years previously. Great working of their audience.

The voicework here is phenomenal, getting great work from the veterans as well as new additions Helen Mirren and Nathan Fillion. Charlie Day absolutely steals his scenes.

"MONSTERS UNIVERSITY" (Pictured) SULLEY amongst other MU monsters. ©2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Monsters University is a perfect prequel, rarely feeling the need to fall back on referencing the original. For the most part, it blazes a new trail and knows it doesn’t have to embrace a cliché finale.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Pete Docter’s Monsters, Inc., click here.

[Happy 10th Birthday!] The Amityville Horror (2005)

theamityvillehorror2005a

Director: Andrew Douglas

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Philip Baker Hall

Screenplay: Scott Kosar

90 mins. Rated R for violence, disturbing images, language, brief sexuality and drug use.

 

Platinum Dunes is known (or notorious?) for their remakes of classic horror films. In 2005, we got a new Amityville Horror film. Like it or not, it happened.

theamityvillehorror2005b

In 1975, George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds, Green Lantern, Woman in Gold) and his wife Kathy (Melissa George, TV’s The Slap, 30 Days of Night) move into their new home. Their time at the home would last 28 days of sheer terror as they discover the previous owners were murdered in the home one year previously.

Something I noticed as I watched this film yesterday that I hadn’t seen before. This movie is so PG it is ridiculous. I wasn’t scared once. I was barely even intrigued. This film is so tame I couldn’t take it. Ryan Reynolds is perhaps my favorite part and even he came off as too hokey at times, trying to deliver snappy dialogue when he should have been focused on his character’s development. I enjoyed his process (he actually neglected getting to know his on-screen children to make him more menacing when needed), but the finished product couldn’t coordinate him in.

Now, the set was actually scarier than the film. On the first day of the shoot, a dead fisherman washed ashore on set. That shit is scary. We’ll get to that one day.

theamityvillehorror2005c

All in all, there are reasons Andrew Douglas isn’t a big name at all. This is one of them. The Amityville Horror is a movie that could have worked as a remake. The whole franchise has a lot of problems and a remake could have course-corrected and brought the series together. It didn’t work, though. It didn’t at all.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

April 2015 Preview

 

Happy April! Let’s look ahead to April’s film releases, starting with…

 

Furious 7

furious72015a

In Paul Walker’s final film role, the seventh adventure in The Fast and the Furious franchise follows Dom and Brian are being hunted by Owen Shaw’s brother Deckard, played by Jason Statham. The last few films in this franchise have just gotten better and better as they embraced the auto theft story over the street race plots. It also features director James Wan diverting from his horror roots to take on an action pic, which I’m feeling good about.

 

 

Woman in Gold

womaningold2015a

Woman in Gold features Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, a holocaust survivor who fought to retrieve a portrait taken from her during the Nazi invasion of Vienna. I enjoy Mirren’s work but I feel like this film has a supporting cast likely to fail, specifically the dreadful Katie Holmes. Ryan Reynolds too is hit or miss so I can’t guarantee anything.

 

 

The Longest Ride

thelongestride2015a

I am so sick of Nicholas Sparks movies. They are all pretty much the same and I intend for that to be a criticism in every possible way. The Notebook was pretty good, but everything since feels like a carbon copy.

 

 

Child 44

child442015a

Tom Hardy stars as an MGB agent investigating a series of child murders in the Soviet Union. I recall great things being said about the novel, and the cast here is filled with capable performers. I’m thinking yeah.

 

 

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

paulblartmallcop22015a

Paul Blart doesn’t deserve to be captured on film. The original film didn’t and neither does this one. It’s a shame that quality films are going to be passed over for this dreck. Please, for the love of all things sacred, skip.

 

 

Unfriended

unfriended2014a

I love a good stylistic horror film, but Unfriended, about six people connected to a high school girl’s suicide one year prior, are hunted during a Skype chat, seems like its suspension of disbelief will ask too much of me. I’m not feeling this one.

 

 

Little Boy

littleboy2015a

Does anybody think this movie looks good? It is the story of a young boy who will do whatever it takes to bring his father back from WW2. No. No. No.

 

 

The Age of Adaline

theageofadaline2015a

I’m liking the idea of a romance film with a hook. Most of these films don’t work out well, but for some reason, I think The Age of Adaline has a chance.

 

Final Tally:

Best Bets: Furious 7, Child 44

On the Bubble: Woman in Gold, Unfriended, The Age of Adaline

Likely Misses: The Longest Ride, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Little Boy

 

So there you have it. See you in May!

-Kyle A. Goethe

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑