Racing Stripes

Anybody making a family film about talking barnyard animals needs to measure themselves up against Babe. Racing Stripes comes nowhere close in terms of quality or enjoyment, but as a family friendly film, is surprisingly decent, especially compared to what else passes on the screen for live-action family fare. This is the story of a zebra who wants to be a racehorse. Underlying this is the search for identity and belonging, reflected both in the animal and human characters. The one aspect that ruins this and most other family films is the inclusion of the fart joke. This makes for easy but tasteless laughs, and tarnishes what would otherwise be a more enjoyable film.

Stripes (voiced by Frankie Muniz, Agent Cody Banks 2, Agent Cody Banks) grew up on a Kentucky farm after the circus accidentally left him behind. Stripes has no idea he's a zebra. All he knows is that he looks a little different but still wants to race. His owners, Nolan (Bruce Greenwood, Being Julia, I, Robot) and his daughter Channing (Hayden Panettiere, Raising Helen, Joe Somebody) are still recovering from the death of Channing's mother during a riding accident. As a result, Nolan gives up training horses and forbids Channing to participate in competitions. This devastates her, as she also has a love for horses and horseracing. Of course, the stars align and Channing finds herself riding Stripes, much to the annoyance of Nolan. Other people find out about this, and it becomes a joke/novelty. Channing wants to enter Stripes in the local race, but Nolan refuses. Anybody want to guess if he will change his mind?

All of the animals speak when humans are not around. And all of the jokes and actors voicing the animals are a mixed bag. Everything about Stripes, from its concept to its execution screams for utter failure, but to the credit of director Frederik Du Chau (Quest for Camelot), Racing Stripes is a decent film. The best vocal actors are Dustin Hoffman (Meet the Fockers, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events) as Tucker, Stripes' Shetland pony trainer, and Joe Pantoliano (Bad Boys II, Daredevil) as a goombah pelican on the run from Jersey. At the other side of the spectrum is Steve Harvey (Johnson Family Vacation, You Got Served) and David Spade (Dickie Roberts, Joe Dirt), who provide most of the lame toilet humor.

Du Chau, David Schmidt, Steven P. Wegner (Chasing Liberty, Love Don't Cost a Thing), and Kirk De Micco (Quest for Camelot) are credit with the story and screenplay. Along with the familial tension between Channing and Nolan (a very nice and subdued Greenwood), Stripes must deal with the other horses making fun of him. Both Stripes and Channing have something to prove to both themselves and the people and animals around them. For Channing, racing is especially fragile. In her heart, she knows that this is the right thing to do, but also has to lie to her father to accomplish this. Again, take away the stupid fly humor and Racing Stripes is quite decent. There is one aspect that Du Chau downplays - gambling. The ending of the film would not be possible without the involvement of gambling, and there is even a quick scene showing how one man (M. Emmet Walsh, Snow Dogs, Christmas with the Kranks) won a bunch of money. The inclusion of this aspect gives a real mixed message, and Du Chau should have tabled it.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 24 minutes, Rated PG for mild crude humor and some language.

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