Racing Stripes (2005) — Better as a gum, not a movie

“Well sub-divide me and Kentucky-Fry me!”

Sue’s rating: Hakuna Matata, it’s Post-Time!

Sue’s review: My good friend Becky and I were planning to see Racing Stripes as part of my birthday celebration, but at the last minute I balked at the gate. “I’m sorry,” I told her, “but it just seems sort of pathetic to go see Dustin Hoffman being a pony on my [number deleted here] birthday. Can we just hang out and play Crash Team Racing instead? I got Bandicoot!”

So I avoided the inevitable (I’m a horse person, it’s a horse movie kinda sorta, there’s no escape) for five more days until the soulful eyes of my offspring prevailed.

Oh heck, it wasn’t that bad.

Abandoned baby zebra, creatively named Stripes (blech) grows up wanting to win the prestigious yet fictional Kentucky Open, hindered only by his owner’s tragic father, a severe case of species-confusion and the fact that his legs are about nine inches long and attached to a physique reminiscent of a sack of oats. On his side are a goat, a pony, a pelican from Joisey, various other farmyard detritus, and two poop-guzzling insects named Buzz and Scuzz. Academy Awards, here we come!

The problem with watching a movie that delves into one’s vocation, or even avocation, is that you tend to nit-pick. “Oh sure,” I nudged Spawn of Mutant 2 who was sitting on my left. “Like even a regular horse would be perfectly trained just because some flannel-shirted, ex-trainer schmo threw a saddle on its back. And duh, who ever heard of a top-flight racetrack in America that only has a turf course? Where’s the dirt oval? Where are we? Ireland? Is this the Curragh? I don’t think so. And excuse me, but Arabian horses are not conformationally suited to be world-class jumpers competing at an international level. Even if they were, quarantine rules are such that she’d never have seen a zebra before, let alone competed in Africa as is implied. And actually racehorses don’t get turned out into pasture during racing season but are instead kept inside their stalls most of the time and fed a high energy diet until their brains are flying out their ears and they develop psychopathic personalities. And as far as cross-species racing goes, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association would swoon like a maiden who just saw her first—”

At that point, Spawn of Mutant 1, sitting on the right, asked me to stop hogging the popcorn, thus neatly interrupting my nattering and very possibly saving his younger sibling from a day in court on charges of first degree matricide with a side dish of gross bodily harm.

So it behooves me (heh!) to step away from the movie and try to assume a more objective stance, since this was supposed to be a family flick and not a documentary on the Thoroughbred industry. And besides, I know that real goats tend to sound more like David Spade (who played a fly) or Robert DiNiro (who amazingly dodged this bullet) than Whoopee Goldberg. Ergo, this must be a comedy and it is not meant to be taken as seriously as I seemed to be taking it.

Anyway, partially to give me more perspective, but mostly by way of apology to Spawn of Mutant 2, I said that she could grab her best pencil (the sparkly one with the Bratz kids on it) and write a discerning opinion piece on Racing Stripes. Here are her comments, complete and unedited:

Racing Stripes is just a great movie and it’s very funny. Those rapping flys were so funny. Who ever heard of a rebel Pelacan named Goose. I mean he destroyed a motorcycle. I think that it was a great film.”

Eat your heart out, Mr. Ebert.

Despite gripes to the contrary, I did sort of like Racing Stripes. There were definitely places where it got a little heavy handed — I mean, how many times should anyone have to hear Freddie Muniz’s despondent discovery that he is not, after all, a born and bred racehorse? The slightly hokey insertions of Serengetti-ish music at introspective moments had me expecting The Lion King’s Rafiki to come swinging across the cornfield, wielding a can of whoop-zebra on the end of his stick at any moment. And I’m sorry, but can someone, anyone, PLEASE come up with a kiddie plot that doesn’t involve a dead parent? SHEEEEESH!

But setting all that aside, Dustin Hoffman actually made for a terrific cranky pony with the heart of gold. (I have known ponies just like this, though slightly less articulate that Hoffman’s Tucker.) I sort of found myself looking forward to the crazed, Marty Feldman eyes of Reggie the Rooster. (Jeff Foxworthy) And actually, the goat suffused with maternal wisdom (though she had no udder — not that I was checking or anything) was sort of a novel concept for someone who has known hundreds of goats and never found one any wiser than your bog-standard hyperactive toddler. I’ll even admit that I never once checked my watch or tapped my foot in my habitual (if futile) belief that doing those things will make a movie go by any faster. So hey, I was entertained. Life is good.

For kids, at least mine, this is a winner. For parents, it’s tolerable. It’s not Babe by any stretch of the imagination, but it has to have been better than the Care Bears Movie and it has all of that Pokèmon crap beat all to heck. What’s not to love about that?

Didja notice?

  • The film supposedly takes place in Kentucky, so why is there a Pelican from New Jersey and two horses named Sir Trenton and Trenton’s Pride? (Trenton being the capital of New Jersey.) Do I detect a conspiracy?
  • Sideways references to Rocky III, The Godfather and Field Of Dreams, among others.
  • Whoever goofed up markings on Pride’s face at the end of the film, should have his/her hand slapped.
  • How much do you think Snoop Dogg (who played a dog, hardy har har) was paid for the three or four lines of dialogue he had?
  • Stripes doesn’t know he’s a zebra until he’s told he’s a zebra and then suddenly he knows exactly what a zebra is. Uhm… huh?
  • There’s no segregation of male and female horses in the pasture. What sort of den of iniquity is this place anyway?
  • FYI – Running full tilt into a tree does not make any equine-type quadruped dizzy. It makes him dead.
  • What’s the point of fences if no one ever stays inside of them?
  • The reasons young flies are taught to look both ways before crossing the street.
  • The sheep don’t talk? Come on, where’s the Baa Ram Ewe chorus?
  • Buzz and Scuzz are supposed to be brothers, but are in fact two different species.

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