Through his bond with his owner, aspiring Formula One race car driver Denny, golden retriever Enzo learns that the techniques needed on the racetrack can also be used to successfully navigate the journey of life.
In Seattle, Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner), an old Golden Retriever, is dying. He is waiting for Denny (Milo Ventimiglia), his master and best friend to return home. Denny arrives but finds Enzo unable to move, as Enzo begins to narrate his life.
Years prior, Denny decides to purchase a puppy and immediately bonds with Enzo. Denny divides his time between teaching Auto racing and caring for Enzo, while also pursuing a career as a race driver. A year later, Denny meets Eve (Amanda Seyfried) while grocery shopping and the two begin to date.
Denny and Eve are eventually married much to the dismay of Eve’s parents, Maxwell (Martin Donovan) and Trish (Kathy Baker), who do not approve of Denny’s career choice. Eve soon discovers that she is pregnant while Denny receives an invitation to an important endurance race in Daytona, which takes place close to Eve’s due date. She later gives birth to a daughter named Zoe (Ryan Kiera Armstrong).
A few years pass and family life is idyllic for Enzo, while Denny spends prolonged periods away from home to race. Eve begins to fall seriously ill and Enzo can smell a distressing ‘rotting wood’ odour coming from her head. She is diagnosed with brain cancer and lives with her parents while receiving treatment. Consigned to her fate, Eve admits to Enzo that she is no longer afraid of death and passes away while he watches on. Maxwell blames Denny’s absence for Eve’s illness, he demands custody of Zoe and threatens to sue if Denny does not comply. Furious, Denny attempts to leave before being grabbed by Maxwell, who falls and breaks a rib in the resulting scuffle. Seeing the opportunity to take the upper hand in the case, Maxwell reports the incident to the police and Denny is arrested for assault, causing him to lose custody of Zoe for an initial 90 days.
Denny continues to race and is offered a job in Maranello testing new prototypes for Ferrari, which he is forced to refuse due to his personal circumstances. Later that night, a frustrated Denny goes jogging with Enzo. Struggling to keep pace in his old age, Enzo attempts to follow Denny across a street but is hit by a car. Denny rushes him to an animal hospital where the vet explains that Enzo is lucky to be alive and may suffer from hip dysplasia in the near future.
Exhausted of money and patience, Denny is persuaded to agree to a settlement whereby he gives up custody of Zoe in exchange for visitation and the dropping of the assault charge. However, Enzo rips the legal document to shreds in an attempt to convince Denny to keep fighting. The court trial arrives and Trish, feeling guilty, admits the truth about the incident while under oath. The charges are dropped and Denny wins full custody of his daughter. He also calls the Ferrari representative and agrees to take the job.
Over the next few weeks, Enzo’s health begins to rapidly deteriorate. Realising that the end is near, Denny arranges for Enzo to be raced around the track where he used to teach. Enzo laments that he will not be able to travel to Italy or care for his family but insists that he has enjoyed a good life. He recalls a television documentary which showcased Mongolian beliefs that once a dog dies, they are reincarnated as a human. Enzo explains that he is looking forward to his new life.
Eight years later, Denny, now a successful Formula One driver, is living in Italy with Zoe. Denny is introduced to a young fan who asks for an autograph. Denny agrees and discovers the boy’s name is Enzo. Denny smiles and tells the father that the boy reminds him of an old friend. Denny gives the father his phone number and tells him that when his son is ready, he will train him.
In Seattle, an old golden retriever is laying in front of a door. He is alive and awake, but barely moving. We begin hearing his thoughts. Life as he knows it is close to the end, but he talks about how he once was watching television and learned about what Mongolians believe about dogs. They are reincarnated and return as dogs, and when they finally live a full life, they come back once more, as humans. We also learn that he believes being unable to communicate with humans is a curse. He is waiting for Denny, his master, and best friend.
Denny (Milo Ventimiglia) comes home and finds Enzo (the dog) unable to even move from the puddle of urine he is laying in. Denny knows the end is nearing. He picks up Enzo and takes him to the couch. Enzo then begins telling us about his life (voiced by Kevin Costner).
Enzo is a puppy and is in a large box/pen outside with the rest of the litter. He tells that even then he knew he was different. Denny arrives and walks up to the pack of puppies. Enzo walks over right to Denny. He begins licking him, and the two quickly form a bond. After the couple who are selling the dogs do a little routine so they can get more money, Denny asks how much for the puppy.
Denny arrives at a garage and takes Enzo out of the car. He introduces him to his friends. One of his friends points out that he’s going to have to take care of the puppy and will have to make time for him. The other asks if he is coming to his ‘band’s concert that night. Denny quickly responds he has to stay home with Enzo.
Denny leaves and goes to his job. He teaches auto racing and his boss, Don, thinks highly of him. He also helps get him jobs as a GT race driver. When ‘he’s not racing or teaching, Denny and Enzo are inseparable. Enzo tells us he loved Denny unconditionally and Denny takes him for runs and watches races on tv with him. Denny says that even though Enzo is a dog, he is a racer at heart and Enzo agrees.
A year quickly goes by, and the two have settled into a routine. Then, while they are grocery shopping, Denny meets Eve (Amanda Seyfried). Enzo can sense ‘Denny’s interest in Eve, and is jealous. He tries to drag Denny away from her literally, but Denny reins in Enzo and asks Eve to his ‘friend’s concert. He jokes and says they are ‘Seattle’s third-best SoundGarden cover band.
They begin dating and quickly fall in love. While Eve is incredibly supportive of Denny, Enzo does not feel that close to her, but he tries because he knows she is important to Denny.
Soon the couple is married, and they make it work even though Denny has to leave most weekends to race. ‘Eve’s parents, who Enzo refers to as the ”twins,” clearly do not approve of ‘Denny’s career. They ‘don’t like that he’s gone often and ‘doesn’t make much money. The mother is more accepting than the father. He races well, but different circumstances cost him from ever making it big. Eve becomes pregnant, and Denny is happy. Enzo even senses a change in Eve and begins to accept her. One night she even has him rest his chin on her belly, and he feels the baby kick. Enzo even admits to being jealous that she can carry a baby in her while it is assembled. ‘He’s okay with it but wants the baby to look like him when it is born.
Denny accepts an endurance race in Daytona but is unsure of following through since it is close to ‘Eve’s due date. Always supportive, she says ‘she’s not due until two weeks after and she has never been early for anything. He leaves.
Enzo watches ‘Denny’s race on the television and Eve goes through childbirth. She gives birth to a daughter, which she names Zoe. When the midwives are done and Eve is holding Zoe comfortably in bed, she tells Enzo to come on over. Enzo quickly arrives and loves the baby, describing her as like nothing he has ever seen before. However, he does not love one her gifts, a stuffed animal zebra.
Denny returns home and says he should have been there. Clearly, ‘Eve’s parents are not thrilled that he ‘wasn’t, but they don’t let on. Eve assures Enzo that they are fine and ‘it’s okay he ‘wasn’t there. He tells her he raced well, but he was replaced at the end by an upcoming driver who crashed just before the end. He raced well, but since his team ‘didn’t even finish, it means nothing and will not be his big break.
Time quickly passes, and we see the family over time. We see a conversation between Denny and Eve about racing when it rains. She asks him if it scares him. He said he ‘doesn’t. He talks about how you can give in to that fear, and if you do you, then you have given up control. He tells her how he begins the skid before the turn, so he controls it. He ‘doesn’t give up control of the car, ever.
Time passes, and Zoe gets older. Eve continues her job as a teacher, and Enzo enjoys the family. Eve complains of a headache one day. Soon after, we learn Enzo can smell the cancer in her head. He describes a ‘rotting wood’ odor come from her. Unable to communicate this, though, life goes on for the family.
Later, Eve is very sick while Denny is away. She is vomiting into the kitchen sink. She rushes out with Zoe and leaves Enzo all alone. Enzo soon runs out of food and must drink water from the toilet. He finds the occasional cheerio on the floor. One night, during a lightning storm, Enzo says he is hallucinating. He sees ‘Zoe’s evil zebra rip another stuffed animal apart and then the zebra rips out its own stuffing.
After a few days, Denny comes home and feeds Enzo. He calls Eve and asks her to come home. She does, and Zoe is upset when she finds all of her stuffed animals and toys ripped to shreds. Denny scolds Enzo and even yells he is a stupid dog. Eve tells him to stop berating the dog. Later Denny finds Enzo in the yard and apologizes to him.
Sometime after Eve is walking with Enzo in the woods, Eve is struggling but keeps telling Enzo (who loves Eve) that she is alright. Suddenly Eve passes out and Enzo barks until help arrives.
Eve stays in the hospital while she undergoes tests and is treated. Denny takes care of Zoe and ‘doesn’t have as much time for Enzo. Eve is discharged and lives with her parents. Denny and Zoe spend time with her, while he condition deteriorates. One night, Enzo goes over to Eve. She admits she is no longer scared. She knows while this the end to her life here, there is more for her after this life. Enzo tells us he watched as she took her last breath. He says he watched her soul depart her body and leave for its next stage.
The family has a funeral, and soon after, ‘Denny’s in-laws confront him. They want custody of Zoe and threaten to sue him. Maxwell, ‘Eve’s father, finally tells Denny what he thinks and Denny tells Zoe they are leaving and to grab her stuff. Maxwell grabs ‘Denny’s arm. Denny pulls it away, and Maxwell falls breaking a rib. ‘Eve’s mother, Trish, had her back turned during this event. Denny and Zoe leave.
Denny hires his lawyer friend, Mark, who says it is an open and shut case. He should have no fear of losing Zoe. Then while at work, Denny is arrested for assault. Maxwell is lying about what happened and says Denny was the aggressor. Mark tells Denny if he is convicted, he may never see his daughter again and that she is with the grandparents for the next 90 days. He cannot call or see her. Enzo is upset by this too.
During this time, Denny is offered a job in Italy testing and racing new prototypes for Ferrari. He tells them he cannot leave the state or accept such a job because of all that is going on in his life. The man gives him his business card and tells him he understands and if things should change to give him a call.
Denny is upset. The 90 days pass and through his in-laws submit a deal. Denny ‘doesn’t know what to do but says he will fight. One night, Denny goes running with Enzo like they used to do, but Enzo, older, struggles to keep pace. Lagging behind, he attempts to follow Denny across the street. He is hit by a car. Denny rushes him to a 24-hour animal hospital.
The vet tells Denny that Enzo is extremely lucky. He will survive, but that this could cause problems in the future. He ‘doesn’t have enough money to pay the vet fully.
Enzo starts to come out of a drug-induced haze a few weeks later. He sees Denny about to agree to a lousy custody deal. Just in time, Enzo grabs the legal document and rips it to shreds. Denny understands ‘Enzo’s message and decides to fight it.
Later, ‘Denny’s friend comes over to watch Enzo as Denny heads to court. Enzo is nervous and anxious to find out what happened. Denny calls his friend to tell him what happened.
We find out through a brief flashback to the court proceedings that ‘Eve’s mother began to lie on the stand and say she saw Denny push Maxwell to the ground. She is dismissed as a witness, but she ‘can’t bring herself to leave things this way. She admits the truth and the charges are dropped. Denny will win and receive full custody of his daughter.
Denny calls the Ferrari representative and agrees to take the job. His new boss is thrilled to hear this, and Enzo is excited to be moving to Italy.
Denny throws Zoe a birthday party. His in-laws show up uninvited. Denny still graciously invites them in. While the party goes on, Enzo, weakened by age, sleeps under that table.
Cut to the beginning of the movie. We see the exact opening scene, but this time it plays on longer. Denny has the ailing dog on the couch with him. He puts on racing and gets an idea.
Denny takes Zoe and Enzo to the race track where he used to teach. His old boss lets him drive Enzo on the track. Enzo talks about all he has learned and that he is sure his next life will be that of a human. He tells us he will be more prepared than other babies starting out and what he laments, like not being able to see Italy. He tells us he knows Denny will make it. He will wow people during testing and get his big break. He will become a great Formula One racer. Denny continues to go faster and Enzo barks to let him know he wants one more lap. The screen fades to white.
Eight years pass and Denny and Zoe are living in Italy. A man and a boy are introduced to Denny who is in full racing gear. The father speaks for the boy and says his son is a big fan. He was wondering if Denny would give the boy an autograph. Denny agrees to and asks the boys name. He is Enzo. Denny smiles and tells the father the boy reminds him of an old friend. The father and boy thank Denny and are ready to leave. Denny stops them and gives the father his number. He tells him that when his son is ready, he will train the boy. The father is touched and thanks Denny.