Racing Stripes (2005)

Rated PG. Our ratings: V-1 ; L- 1; S/N-2

Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
Zephaniah 3:19

Racing Stripes

Very much a sports formula, of the race track subgenre, Frederik Du Chau’s film nevertheless can help fill the need for family viewing fare. Patterned after Babe, with talking animals and two wise-cracking bugs to comment on things (don’t ask what their favorite source of food is!), we are definitely in the land of fable. Stripes (voiced by Frankie Muniz) is a young zebra who is left behind by a traveling circus when everyone is trying to load up during a severe storm. Nolan Walsh ( Bruce Greenwood) finds the bedraggled creature in the road and brings him home to his farm, where daughter Channing (Hayden Panettiere) is smitten by the cute little thing.

Jump ahead in time when the grown Stripe watches from a hilltop race horses being trained at the nearby race track. A good runner himself, he thinks he could beat them. The snooty horses, laugh at this and subject him to all sorts of humilation. Will the little Zebra be able to overcome all the obstacles, including the refusal of Nolan, still grieving the death of his wife in a racetrack accident, to allow daughter Channing to train or race the zebra. It’s not spoiling anything to reveal that the penultimate act, in which Stripes trots onto the track is patterned after Babe’s appearance at the sheepherding contest.

Despite its predictability, this is an enjoyable tale of an outsider succeeding despite all expectations, and thus providing young viewers food for thought and discussion. I am not claiming that the prophet was thinking of zebras when he wrote that God would “gather the outcast” and change their shame into praise,” but the film pretty well reflects the sentiment. Anyone working with middle school or below children, especially girls, would do well to catch the show.