Move over Seabiscuit, there's a new champion in town in Racing Stripes, a kid-friendly comedy in the Babe mould about a zebra who dreams of winning the Kentucky Derby. Deftly combining his human actors with a rogue's gallery of trotting, flapping and braying critters, director Frederik Du Chau (The Magic Sword: Quest For Camelot) assembles a breezy caper that will entertain children without testing their parents' patience.
After being dumped on a roadside by a travelling circus, Stripes (voiced by Frankie Muniz) grows up on a farm convinced he's a horse. But while the rest of the barnyard indulge his fantasies, the nags from the adjoining stud farm - led by stuck-up steed Trenton's Pride (Joshua Jackson) - poo-poo his ambitions. Stripes finally gets his chance to shine when a canny bookie (M Emmet Walsh) persuades his owner (Bruce Greenwood) to train the beast for the big time. But there are a few obstacles for our striped hero. Not only is Nolan reluctant to let teenage daughter Channing (Hayden Panettiere) become a jockey, but Stripes must also cope with the thoroughbreds next door, who aren't about to let a puny zebra show them up on the final stretch...
"BETTER-THAN-AVERAGE VOICE CAST"
Coming across like a live-action Charlotte's Web, Racing Stripes artfully balances its two-legged and four-legged narratives with the help of expert animal husbandry and a better-than-average voice cast. Dustin Hoffman is surprisingly effective as a kind-hearted Shetland pony, while Joe Pantoliano prattles on amusingly as a wiseguy pelican on the run from the mob. Only a couple of computer-generated horseflies, gratingly vocalised by comedians Steve Harvey and David Spade, let the side down with their lame pop-culture in-jokes and tediously flatulent antics.