Racing Stripes Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
What child hasn’t found a wayward stray and asked to keep it? In this movie, young Channing Walsh (Hayden Panettiere) is immediately enamored with a baby zebra her dad Nolan (Bruce Greenwood) rescues during a stormy night. Forgotten by the circus, the little critter takes well to the humans and other barnyard inhabitants of their Kentucky farm.
In fact, the zebra, now called Stripes (voiced by Frankie Muniz), even speaks the same language (which, conveniently, is English) as the resident roosters, horses, and goats. Yes, this is one of those talking animal movies, with a thin veil between the people and creatures that prohibits cross-communication.
The ramshackle Walsh farm overlooks a spectacular horseracing track. Thanks to its close proximity, the livestock can chew their cud with the neighboring pedigreed mounts. Upon hearing news of the upcoming Kentucky Open, Stripes is excited to join in the conversation—but is quickly put in his place by Trenton’s Pride (Joshua Jackson), the highbrow offspring of the proud thoroughbred Sir Trenton (Fred Dalton Thompson). None-the-less, the zesty zebra, who doesn’t understand he’s not a horse, is convinced he has the potential to enter the big race. Now all he needs to do is persuade someone to ride him.
Channing is quick to pick up on Stripes’ hints. The young girl is eager to be a jockey, but since her mother was killed in a racing incident a few years ago, Nolan has been reluctant to let her ride. To assist her cause, the intelligent domesticated beasts disable every other form of transportation available, leaving Stripes as the only option for her to get to work.
Playing the stereotypical part of the repressed daughter, Channing confronts her father with the request of preparing the zebra for the competition. Next thing we know, Daddy is mowing down the one crop that might bring this dying farm some money. With a comedic nod to Field of Dreams, the cornfield becomes Stripes’ training area, much to the chagrin of evil Clara Dalrymple (Wendie Malick), the nearby track’s owner who is determined to keep the African transplant from entering her race.
It’s difficult to not appreciate what is so obviously a painstaking production. Most of the shots were done with real animals (they filmed in South Africa to ensure a supply of trained zebras), with computerized images and puppets used only when absolutely necessary. I can only imagine how long it would take to get a goat to find its mark, or a rooster to crow on cue. Of course the lip-syncing is done with animation, but it’s amazing how far this technology has come since the film Babe.
Sadly, the rest of the movie does not show the same care and attention as the visual presentation. Racing Stripes falls behind the pack with a lackluster script that doesn’t make the best use of the unique characters and instead resorts to flatulence and poop jokes delivered by two animated flies (voiced by David Spade and Steve Harvey) to wrench a chuckle out of its young audience. It’s unfortunate this potentially valid story about not letting your stripes, spots or color stop you from reaching your goals is whitewashed with this off-color hue.Starring Hayden Panettiere, Frankie Muniz, Bruce Greenwood.. Theatrical release January 13, 2005. Updated April 1, 2009
Racing Stripes Parents' Guide
Movies aimed at family audiences often depict a child who has recently lost one or both parents. Why do you think this concept is so popular? How does it change the viewer’s attitude toward the character?
Gambling on horse races is a subplot in this film. Do you think this type of wagering differs from other forms of betting, such as slot machines or casino games? Why is horse racing often depicted as a more “sophisticated” method of gambling?
The most recent home video release of Racing Stripes movie is May 9, 2005. Here are some details…
DVD Release date: 10 May 2005
I bet you’ll be surprised at the jackpot of bonus features to be had on the DVD release of Racing Stripes. Extras include: a never-before-seen alternate ending, a barnyard outtakes reel, a How to Make Animals Talk featurette, acting class with the animals and their trainers, deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer. Other nuggets of note are Buzz and Scuzz’s Flying Fiasco Challenge, Virtual Comic Book: The Racing Stripes Prequel and The Music of Racing Stripes with Sting and Bryan Adams. Director Frederik Du Chau also provides commentary. The movie is available in English, with subtitles in English, French and Spanish.