Rated PG, 94 min. Directed by Frederik Du Chau. Voices by Frankie Muniz, Whoopi Goldberg, Dustin Hoffman, Mandy Moore, Joshua Jackson, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Spade, Steve Harvey, Joe Pantoliano, Jeff Foxworthy, Fred Dalton Thompson, Snoop Dogg. Starring Bruce Greenwood, Hayden Panettiere, Wendie Malick, M. Emmet Walsh, Gary Bullock, Caspar Poyck.
Stripes is the name of a zebra who thinks he's a horse. But just as Stripes is not really a horse of a different color, this partially animated kids picture is not a movie of a different stripe. Mixing live action (human and animal) with animated animal mouths that make it appear as though the animals are talking, Stripes' sense of wonder was old hat even back when Mr. Ed was in fashion. The movie's messages are appropriate for the little tykes (be true to yourself, follow your dreams, etc.), and so too are its voluminous poop jokes. Adults will find Stripes tolerable at best, and the youngsters will probably show little more enthusiasm. The film begins as the baby Stripes becomes separated from his mother during a torrential downpour that besets a circus caravan. Like a babe in the bulrushes, Stripes is taken in by the kindly Nolan Walsh (Greenwood), a farmer and former horse trainer who gave up the profession when his wife died in a riding accident. His adolescent daughter Channing (Panettiere) names the zebra Stripes, and after raising him for several years wants to race him in the Kentucky Open despite her father’s objections. Stripes is surrounded by a whole petting zoo of animals offering advice: a goat, Shetland pony, pelican, rooster, and bloodhound (voiced in turn by Goldberg, Hoffman, Pantoliano, Foxworthy, and Snoop Dogg – who, it should be noted, only has three lines of dialogue and seems added as a gratuitous afterthought). Harvey and Spade give voice to two fully animated flies, whose frequent soft landings in dung piles and such provide most of the film’s scatological humor. The human actors fare better: All deliver better performances than the script requires, including Malick as the racetrack-owning villain (she gets her comeuppance in the end when the pelican poops on her from above) and Walsh as the grizzled track rat who believes in Stripes. As the voice of the grown-up Stripes, however, Muniz lacks the tone of cuddly cuteness that would have made Stripes a more enduringly endearing character. Simply put, no matter what this zebra thinks of himself, Stripes is no thoroughbred.