It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Racing Stripes" is a compromise between "National Velvet" and "Babe," leading to the inescapable question: Why not see them, instead of this? It tells the story of the young girl who has faith in a disregarded animal and rides it to victory in a derby, and it has the barnyard full of cute talking animals. There are kids who will like it, but then there are kids who are so happy to be at the movies that they like everything. Adults are going to find it a little heavy on barnyard humor.
The story: On a night journey, a circus truck breaks down, and when the caravan resumes its journey, a basket has been forgotten by the side of the road. It contains a baby zebra. Horse trainer Nolan Walsh (Bruce Greenwood) and his daughter Channing (Hayden Panettiere) find the orphan. Nolan wants to trace its owners, but Channing of course falls in love with it and wants it for a pet. It wouldn't seem that hard to find the owners of a baby zebra in Kentucky, but Nolan agrees, and the baby is named Stripes.
The Walsh farm occupies high ground above a racetrack, which absorbs much of the attention of the farm's animals. Walsh himself was a trainer, we learn, until he fell into depression after his wife died in a riding accident. He has forbidden Channing to follow her lifelong dream of being a jockey, but are we all agreed it's only a matter of time until she rides Stripes to victory in the local derby?
The animals in the movie are all real animals, except for the animated flies (voices by Steve Harvey and David Spade). Computer effects are used, however, to sync their mouths with the dialogue -- an effect that's a little creepy. Cartoon animals have a full range of facial expressions, but when real animals are given CGI lip movements, there often seems to be a disconnect between the lips and the face.