January 4, 2005 > Racing Stripes
Rated PG for mild crude humor and some language
by Susana Nuñez
The holidays are winding down and the year kicks off with a new comedy for children, Racing Stripes. With voice-overs by talents such as Frankie Muniz, Mandy Moore, and comedians Steve Harvey and David Spade, Racing Stripes would seem to appeal to a broader audience. The film's lack of originality and fresh comedy, however, makes for an easily forgettable story.
In the middle of a thunderstorm, a traveling circus accidentally leaves a baby zebra behind. Stripes (voiced by Frankie Muniz), a fitting name for a zebra, falls into the hands of horse farmer Nolan Walsh (Bruce Greenwood) and his loving daughter Channing (Hayden Panettiere). On their small Kentucky farm, Stripes meets his fellow barnyard residents, led by a cranky Shetland Pony named Tucker (voiced by Dustin Hoffman) and Franny (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg), a wise old goat. Stripes also meets the thoroughbreds that roam among the neighboring Turfway Racetrack, where the horses compete for the Kentucky Crown. While Stripes feels he has what it takes to compete and leave his opponents in the dust, one small detail is in his way to success; he doesn't know he is not a horse.
Young Channing shares Stripe's wishes to hit the racetrack, as she longs to train as a jockey, yet her overprotective father refuses to give her the opportunity to race because of the risks of the potentially dangerous sport. Channing's stubbornness pulls through and her father finally gives in and agrees to train her and Stripes for the Kentucky Crown. Stripes not only has to train, but must also endure the cruelty of the thoroughbreds who don't want him participating in a sport that was meant for horses, not zebras. With the help of his barnyard friends, Stripes struggles to prepare for the big day when he hopes to demonstrate that he can race with the best of them.
Although the movie is backed by veteran comedians and talented actors, it lacks originality. The story is similar to the well-known Babe movies, where a pig living on a farm longs to become a sheep dog, or in his case a sheep-pig. He is surrounded by farm animal friends, as well, similar to the friends Stripes has in the film. Even the usually witty comedy of Steve Harvey and the dry humor and sarcasm of David Spade could not save the film. Children may enjoy the bland story, but parents beware, you may not be able to stay awake and enjoy it with them. With an excellent cast of actors and comedians, moviegoers will expect much more, but the film definitely will not meet their expectations. If you planned to take your children to see this film, save your money and rent Babe, the original hit that far exceeds this remake in disguise.