RACING STRIPES directed by Frederik Du Chau, written by Chau, David Schmidt, Stephen P. Wegner and Kirk De Micco, produced by Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Edward McDonnell and Lloyd Phillips, with Bruce Greenwood, Hayden Panettiere, Wendie Malick, M. Emmet Walsh and voices of Frankie Muniz, Mandy Moore, Dustin Hoffman, Whoopi Goldberg and Snoop Dogg. 94 minutes. A Warner Bros. release. Opens Friday (January 14). For venues and times, see Movies, page 76. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Scramble together the little-guy-in-the-big-game movie, the horse movie and the talking-animal movie and you've got Racing Stripes.
Our hero's a zebra, abandoned in infancy, who thinks he's a horse and wants to enter the big race. He's helped by the other barnyard critters but bullied by the thoroughbreds on the next farm.
Meanwhile, among the humans, Dad is grieving over his wife's death in a riding accident, has walked away from horse training and won't let his daughter ride. You can see where this is going.
It gets there by putting its energy into the animals. The human story gets exactly the time it needs and no more, and the actors, knowing their place, hit the right notes, neither hogging nor hiding from the show.
The animals get all the fun parts. Whoopi Goldberg and Dustin Hoffman as a bickering goat and horse have lot of screen time and most of the better lines. But the standouts are Steve Harvey and David Spade, a pair of singing horseflies with a fart obsession and a taste for really bad jokes. More of them would have made this a better movie.
The CGI lip synching is flawless, and - a bonus for the grown-ups in the crowd - zebras are remarkably pleasant creatures to watch.
There isn't much here you haven't seen before, but it's all well done.
At the screening I attended, the small children stayed engaged throughout, and the adults had a few laughs.