Thursday, December 31, 2009

Racing Stripes

Day 364 - 12/30/09 - Movie #364

BEFORE: Just two more movies until the end of Year One. Much progress has been made, but I still have miles to go before I sleep (usually in the middle of a bad film...) For now, it's back-to-back zebra films.

THE PLOT: An abandoned zebra grows up believing he is a racehorse, and, with the help of his barnyard friends and a teenage girl, sets out to achieve his dream of racing with thoroughbreds.

AFTER: Someday, this movie will be seen as important for starring Hayden Panettiere in-between her role on "Ally McBeal" and her role in "Heroes". Just as Elizabeth Taylor had "National Velvet", Hayden's got "Racing Stripes". If she goes on to bigger roles, this film could come back to haunt her...

This is an animated film cross-breeded with a sport film, it's only missing the cliche where an official holds a giant rule book and announces that, by gum, there's no rule that says a zebra CAN'T run in a horse race. Umm, yes there is, it's up there in rule 1 which defines the term "horse race". (funny, you never see lawyers involved in these disputes, which would slow the whole film down...)

Yes, Stripes is a zebra, a fact which the film chooses to remind us of about 50,000 times, as it's the main topic of every conversation between any two characters, or even just his internal monologue...just in case you forgot, or your eyes stop functioning halfway through the film. And we all know it's not the breed of animal, or the size of his legs, or the physical impossibility of beating a thoroughbred in a race - it's all about "heart", isn't it. Funny how the main character's opponent never has any "heart", right? I mean, that would make things difficult, if the other fella wanted to win just as much...

There are nods here to "Field of Dreams" - father builds a racetrack in a cornfield, despite working very hard plowing said field earlier in the film - and "Karate Kid" - training montage of doing manual labor as unlikely preparation for sporting event. Heck, throw in "Rocky IV" and any other sports film you care to name.

And I know it's a film for kids, but there's just too much comic relief - too much time devoted to a couple of rapping/singing flies (David Spade and Steve Harvey) and all the fecal jokes that come with them, and a pelican named Goose (Joe "Joey Pants" Pantoliano) whose main role is to dive-bomb people with his guano... A high ratio of comic relief suggests an attempt to distract from the main storyline.

Also starring Bruce Greenwood (JFK from "13 Days"), Wendie Malick, and character actor M. Emmet Walsh in live-action form, and the voices of Frankie Muniz (Stripes), Dustin Hoffman (as a horse), Whoopi Goldberg (goat), Jeff Foxworthy (rooster), Snoop Dogg (dog, ha-ha), Mandy Moore (horse), Michael Clarke Duncan (Clydesdale horse), and Fred Dalton Thompson (horse). All were pretty easy for me to identify, except Moore and Thompson - I admit I had to fast-forward to the end credits to identify him, it was really bugging me.

And my only personal connection to tonight's film was that Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor from "Smallville") had a few lines as a horse named Ruffshod. I spoke with Michael briefly at the premiere of "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith", as we were standing at the popcorn counter together. Not a great story, but I do enjoy speaking to celebs, even when they're incognito.

RATING: 4 out of 10 riding crops

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