There comes a time in any critic’s life when you have to suppress whatever footling objections you have had, and salute the Kevin Costneraissance. You have to bow down to the pure demonic inspiration of creating a sentimental live-action family film about a lovable golden retriever, whose grouchy inner monologue is voiced by none other than Kevin Costner. You have to put your hands up and say: I get it. The dog looks adorable, intelligent and sad-eyed, and just as owners look like their pets, so dogs in weepie movies based on runaway New York Times bestselling books start to look like the veteran ex-romantic leads doing the voice – ie Kevin Costner. The morphing process is inexorable and by the closing credits, it’s basically Kevin Goldenretrievster we’re talking about, without CGI or the pointy ears that Judi Dench has to wear in Cats.
Screenwriter Mark Bomback has adapted the three-hankie property from author and movie producer Garth Stein, and Simon Curtis directs. They have created a film aimed with lethal efficiency at your tear ducts like Chuck Norris putting his boot into your kidneys. Milo Ventimiglia plays Denny, a race car driver renowned for an ability to handle his vehicle in the rain – and perhaps also for piloting his family’s lives through a tear-fall of sadness. He’s devoted to his dog, Enzo (Costner), who with decent canine stoicism accepts the loss of attention when Denny falls in love with Eve (Amanda Seyfried) and then they have a baby. But a dark shadow falls when Eve begins to feel unwell. And who do you suppose is going to step up and keep the family together? The purely outrageous final scene addresses Enzo’s own belief that dogs can evolve upwards into homo sapiens. His canine existence looks dignified enough to me.
• The Art of Racing in the Rain is released in the UK and US on 9 August.
• This article was amended on 9 August 2019. It stated previously that the release date in the UK and the US was 9 April, not 9 August.