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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

As the screen faded to black and the credits began to roll, my wife reached into her purse and, unprompted, handed me a tissue.

Dog movies rarely have happy endings.

But, if you love dogs, specifically golden retrievers, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is must-see cinema.

The movie isn’t getting great reviews, but pay the reviewers no heed.

One complaint reviewers voice is the lead character, at least the lead human character, isn’t believable because he isn’t flamboyant enough. He’s too ordinary to drive a race car.

For Pete’s sake, the movie is narrated by a dog. The reviewer was fine with that, but couldn’t handle a low-key race car driver?

The story line is simple.

Denny Swift, the lead human, drives race cars. One day on his way home from a day at the track, he randomly stops to look at puppies. Swift learned, as I have, that golden retriever puppies are irresistible.

So Enzo, named after Enzo Ferrari, enters Denny’s life.

The two become inseparable. Enzo accompanies Denny to work. They watch televised races together. They go grocery shopping together. And, the depth of their relationship is the topic of Enzo’s ongoing commentary.

Then, the inevitable happens.

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Denny falls in love, gets married and has a daughter. It’s not easy on Enzo, but he learns to accept the wife and, like all goldens, he absolutely adores the little girl.

I won’t give away any more of the plot, but the movie covers about 15 years – if you do the math you’ll know there isn’t going to be a happy ending for Enzo.

But, the script writers brilliantly captured the personality of the typical golden retriever.

We have been fortunate enough to have goldens in our lives for the past 25 years. The movie did a brilliant job of capturing the warmth, loyalty, innate intelligence and personality quirks of the breed.

Enzo was portrayed as instinctively understanding the emotional needs of his human family. If you haven’t shared your life with a golden, you may think this hand was overplayed. It wasn’t.

Since we became parents to goldens, my wife lost both of her mother and father. My mom and dad passed away in the last 10 years. We have had other family traumas. Both our daughters have married and moved out of the house.

Our dogs have been there through it all. They have been unwavering friends when we desperately needed comfort. Sometimes, it’s nothing more than placing their head on your lap. They seem to know what you need.

Conversely, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” wonderfully portrays the playful, mischievous side of goldens. The act of revenge enacted on Denny’s father-in-law is both hilarious and realistic.

On balance, you’ll do a lot more laughing than crying during this movie.

But, be warned. After watching the movie, the urge to add a golden to your family will be overwhelming.

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LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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