Dogs can get away with a lot. They might eat that cheese plate you left on the arm of the sofa, or poop on your favourite rug, but within hours you’ll be scratching them behind the ears and telling them how good they are. However, even after the canine-powered success of middling movies like ‘Marley & Me’ and ‘A Dog’s Purpose’, this latest dog-u-drama is just too clumsy and dull to forgive.
Its protagonist is Enzo, named after Ferrari, a golden retriever whose old soul is encapsulated by the warmly grizzled and grossly overused tones of Kevin Costner. Enzo really loves his master (so, so much), a struggling race-car driver named – seriously – Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia), and dreams of racing cars himself. Enzo is also a frustratingly inconsistent narrator. He knows words like ‘polysyllabic’, grasps the concept of gravity and has in-depth knowledge of Mongolian philosophy, but he says he doesn’t understand money and isn’t even sure if his own species can see in colour. Even more frustrating is the way the film’s first hour is simply Enzo relating a series of skipped-over events, until a semblance of a plot eventually kicks in, albeit one of daytime soap depth and quality, involving a custody battle for a perky blonde child.
It hardly helps that Ventimiglia is as bland as cardboard in the lead (human) role, while Amanda Seyfried’s involvement as Denny’s wife, Eve, requires her to be just as unconditionally loving towards her husband as Enzo, revealing no discernible ambition of her own, other than having his child. It’s not just bad writing, it’s downright offensive. The film’s not even rescued by a bonkers dog-hallucination scene involving a demonic soft-toy zebra — although that might wake you up for a few minutes. ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ should get back in its crate and stay there. Bad dog.