out of Five
Running time: 101
If the trailers and posters for Racing Stripes remind you of Babe, it’s probably no coincidence, as the film uses the same blend of digitally-enhanced talking animals, live-action and animation.
Presumably its producers are also hoping for a Babe-sized hit, although the film isn’t quite on that level. That said, it’s still a decent family film that kids will enjoy and adults won’t resent being dragged to.
Abandoned Zebra Dreams Of Stardom
When a zebra called Stripes (voiced by Frankie ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ Muniz) accidentally gets left behind by the circus, he’s adopted by kindly horse farmer Nolan Walsh (Bruce Greenwood) and his daughter Channing (Hayden Panettiere). When Stripes spots the neighbouring racetrack he’s immediately hooked and dreams of one day becoming a racehorse.
Encouraged by grumpy Shetland Pony Tucker (Dustin Hoffman) and barnyard goat Franny (Whoopi Goldberg), Stripes sets about getting noticed by Channing, who has her own dream of becoming a jockey. Eventually they persuade over-protective ex-trainer Nolan to come out of his self-imposed retirement and train them, but does Stripes have what it takes to compete in the Kentucky Open?
Directed by Frederik Du Chau and selected as the official film for Red Nose Day 2005, Racing Stripes has all the ingredients a decent family comedy requires: a feel-good theme, gross-out humour and talking animals for the kids and a sharp script that contains plenty of laugh-out-loud gags for adults.
Strongest Performance Comes From Pelican…
The performances are excellent. Muniz does a good job in the lead and there’s strong support from Goldberg, but the stand-outs are Dustin Hoffman and Joey ‘Pants’ Pantoliano as Goose, a deranged, fast-talking big-city Pelican who’s hiding out in the sticks until the heat dies down in the city. (Goose is the source of most of the more adult-oriented gags). Also worthy of mention are lazy bloodhound Lightning (Snoop Dogg) and the unsavoury pairing of David Spade and Steve Harvey as Scuzz and Buzz, an all-singing, all-manure-eating pair of horseflies.
Racing Stripes (do you see what they did there?) doesn’t quite manage to push all the buttons the way Babe did, partly because the screenplay is a little unfocused in places – for example, a love interest sub-plot (with Mandy Moore as Sandy The Horse) gets dropped pretty quickly, presumably because onscreen horse-zebra love might provoke some awkward questions.
That said, it’s well-acted and the racing sequences are well-handled. In short, this is an enjoyable family comedy that won’t disappoint its audience. Worth seeing.