Directed by Frederik Du Chau, starring Frankie Muniz, Bruce Greenwood, Hayden Panettiere, Whoopi Goldberg, Dustin Hoffman, Mandy Moore and Joshua Jackson.
One of the biggest hits of the year in 1995 was 'Babe', the live- action-combined-with-cgi story of a pig who wanted to be a sheepdog. 'Racing Stripes' comes from the same producers and it's very similar to its predecessor.
Stripes (Muniz), a circus zebra accidentally left behind in a storm, is taken in by corn farmer and former horse trainer Nolan Walsh (Greenwood) and doted on by his teenage daughter Channing (Panettiere). As soon as he sees the race track next door, Stripes longs to join the racehorses and show what he's made of, but the other horses, led by thoroughbred Sir Trenton's Pride (Jackson), make fun of him.
Determined to succeed, Stripes takes drastic measures to prove himself and is soon aided by Tucker (Hoffman), a sarcastic Shetland pony with a gift for training horses. He's ably assisted by Franny (Goldberg), an interfering, but well-meaning goat. And then there's Sandy (Moore), who likes Stripes for who he is. With a lot of help and encouragement, Stripes sets his sights on winning the Kentucky Open and proving once and for all that zebras can race.
The style is strongly reminiscent of 'Babe', with the character types closely resembling those of that movie. It's not surprising that the producers would choose to repeat a successful formula – this is aimed at a young audience after all – but a little originality would have been welcome to the adults who will accompany their children to the cinema.
That said, there's plenty to enjoy here. Buzz and Scuzz, two flies who spend their days buzzing around the farm, and Goose, a streetwise pelican, but a chicken at heart, who's just flown in from 'Joisey', provide most of the comedy. And the acting on the part of the humans is superior to that of many children's movies. Bruce Greenwood in particular, an actor who's played many diverse roles, excels as the kindly farmer Nolan Walsh. Hayden Panettiere as his spirited daughter is also great.
'Racing Stripes' is a movie that kids will watch over and over, but it would have been so much better if 'Babe' hadn't gone before.