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</script></div>{/googleAds}In case you didn't realize it, we're now in the beginning of what has become known as "the dumping season" when studios dump their stinkers on the market hoping to take advantage of all the other stinkers out there. And the first one out of the gate for 2005 is Racing Stripes, a Babe wannabe that's long on heart and emotion but short on originality and creative forethought. It unnecessarily stoops to juvenile lows and relies a bit too heavily on formulaic filmmaking techniques and potty humor. Although there's something not quite right about overly-criticizing this film - after all its heart is in the right place and it is appropriately marketed towards children - we've learned from movies like Holes and Two Brothers that children are always a bit smarter than we give them credit for. It's always better to go for smart than to settle for simple.

The film opens as a Zebra foal, accidentally left behind by a traveling circus, is taken in by the Walsh Family where it grows up on their Kentucky farm. Named Stripes by young Channing Walsh (Hayden Panettiere), the zebra is welcomed to the family by a motley conglomeration of misfit farm animals, all of which speak like humans. The most enjoyable part of the film for me came from trying to guess which actor is voicing which of the barnyard critters. From Joe Pantoliano as a wayward pelican from "Joysie", Whoopi Goldberg as a motherly goat, and Snoop Dog as, well, a dog, almost all the animals have "issues" or unfulfilled dreams. Especially Tucker (Dustin Hoffman) a Shetland pony that, upon the realization he wasn't large or fast enough to race with thoroughbreds, became a trainer instead.

Of course being a zebra on a Kentucky horse farm is not exactly blending in, so naturally it doesn't take Stripes long to realize his differences from the other animals. But his aspirations lie in his desire to fit in and to race with the big boys at the local horse track. His talents prove to be too raw so he must learn the ways of the thoroughbred through human intervention. Enter farm owner Nolan Walsh (Bruce Greenwood), a former horse trainer who lost his wife to a riding accident many years earlier and who is determined to keep his daughter Channing from riding Stripes.

Predictably everyone finds redemption and discovers his own purpose when Stripes hits the track for the big race. Even a pair of green doo-doo flies (voiced by Steve Harvey and David Spade) has a role in Stripes' run for the roses.

The whole story plays out strictly by the numbers with minimal plot twists and almost no surprises. All of the film's humor comes from the barnyard animals, but even then it's expecting too much to get anything more than a chuckle or two.

Kudos goes to the filmmakers for their flawless execution of the digital mechanics seen as the animals speak. Even when watched closely, their mouths move almost seamlessly, including appropriate head nods and body movements. Clearly the crew spent more time with the cgi than they did with the anemic script.

Although it's rated PG for crude humor, Racing Stripes is fairly wholesome entertainment for the entire family unless flatulence, excrement gags and bodily functions are not your thing. It might have realized greater success had it aimed for an older audience, say maybe, 10.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: French; Spanish; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 Surround; French: DTS 5.1 Surround; Spanish: DTS 5.1 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; deleted scenes; director's commentary; making-of featurette.

* Commentaries:
o With director Frederick Du Chau
* Featurettes:
o "How to Make Animals Talk"
o "Animal Acting 101"
* Deleted Scenes:
o Deleted scenes and outtakes
* Alternate Endings
* The Music of Racing Stripes - with Sting and Bryan Adams
* Theatrical Trailer
* Easter Eggs - Curb Your Enthusiasm
* Additional Release Materials
o Challenges - Buzz & Scuzz's Flyin' Fiasco
* Interactice Features:
o Interactive Comic Book