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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Racing Stripes is a 2005 comedy in which a zebra raised on a farm in Kentucky wants to be the fastest on the racetrack against snobby thoroughbreds. There's quite a bit of humor involving defecation, urination, and flatulence. Profanity -- "s--t," "bitch," and "ass" -- is not quite said by characters in some scenes, but is strongly implied. There's some double entendre with words like "pecker," and when a female horse trots by, one of the male horses remarks, "Look at those flanks." Two flies eat horse excrement, and one of the flies urinates in a man's cup of espresso. A flying goose tries to defecate on the head of the antagonist. The movie also talks of how the mother of the lead teen girl died while horseracing. While there's an overall message of "It's OK to be different," that message is often drowned out by the potty humor on display throughout the movie.
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What's the story?
RACING STRIPES gets rolling when horse trainer turned farmer Nolan Walsh (Bruce Greenwood) finds a baby zebra and brings him home. For his daughter, Channing (Hayden Panittiere), it's love at first sight. Three years later, Stripes is a cherished part of the farm family. But Stripes (voiced by Frankie Muniz), who has never seen another zebra, thinks he's a racehorse, like the thoroughbreds he sees at the racecourse next door, owned by snooty Carla (Wendie Malick). His friends include pony Tucker (Dustin Hoffman), a goat (Whoopi Goldberg), wayward seagull Goose, and horseflies Scuzz and Buzz. The racehorses jeer at him, but Stripes trains and dreams of winning a real race. A sympathetic filly named Sandy (Mandy Moore) provides encouragement. The animals find a way to let Channing know that Stripes is fast enough to race and she wants to ride him, but Nolan, whose wife died in a racing accident, doesn't want Channing to compete.
Is it any good?
If you can handle the potty humor, this is the best live-action talking-animal movie since the beloved Babe. The human performers are just fine, especially the underrated Greenwood. He is too often relegated to bad-guy roles, but he shows real warmth and screen presence here. Up-and-coming young Panittiere makes us believe in her devotion to her father and the dream of racing she shares with Stripes.
But Racing Stripes is all about the animals, and the voice talents and computer-aided "acting" make the characters very real and very appealing. The humor may overdo the doo-doo, but there are sweet and funny moments as Stripes tries to follow his dream and learns the importance of friends.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Stripes was so unhappy to find out he wasn't a horse in Racing Stripes. Why did Clara and Nolan have different ideas about what was important? Why do some people think "different" is scary?
This movie often used punchlines and catchphrases from other movies to get laughs. What were some of these references? Why would these references be in the movie?
How does this movie compare to other movies in which "misfit" characters are made fun of by others but use their perceived "weirdness" as the strength that helps them attain their goal?
- In theaters: January 14, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: May 10, 2005
- Cast: Frankie Muniz, Hayden Panettiere, Wendie Malick
- Director: Frederik Du Chau
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Horses and Farm Animals, Wild Animals
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild crude humor and some language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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