Rat Race: Movie & DVD Review (2001)

9/12/2007 Posted by Admin

Ruthlessly dumb people

(Originally published 2001)

Directed by Jerry Zucker, written by Andy Breckman, 112 minutes, rated PG-13.

After an uninspired opening that establishes a been-there, laughed-at-that premise, Jerry Zucker's "Rat Race" builds to one of the more outrageously funny comedies Hollywood produced last year.

It knows exactly what it wants to be--a silly screwball chase movie modeled after Stanley Kramer's "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World," Blake Edwards' "The Great Race" and the Mack Sennett comedies of the silent era.

What's better? Unlike so many recent comedies, "Rat Race" doesn't dip into the toilet bowl to pluck out its laughs. Instead, its comedy hinges on a series of non-stop sight gags, many of which had the audience at my screening last summer literally in tears.

The cast--including John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Lovitz, Rowan Atkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Seth Green, Lanai Chapman, Kathy Bates and Breckin Meyer--is in fine form, taking to the screen with an eagerness that suggests they're more than up for the considerable absurdities Andy Breckman is shucking in his script.

In the film, a group of people staying at a Las Vegas hotel win the chance to win $2 million, which an eccentric casino owner played by Cleese has stuffed into a duffel bag and hidden 700 miles away in Silver City, N.M. To the highways and byways these people flee, losing along the way their sanity, their tempers, their lunches and--more often than not--their self-respect.

Zucker, who first hit the collective funny bone as one of the co-directors of "Airplane!" and "Ruthless People" before moving on to direct "Ghost" and "First Knight" on his own, deftly keeps things moving with an energy that only sputters toward the end, which is a misstep. Still, there's much to be admired here.

Whether Zucker is featuring Goldberg and Chapman in a runaway rocket car that breaks the sound barrier, Lovitz drugging his family after he convinces them to steal Hitler's car, or Gooding running from a wailing band of Lucille Ball impersonators, the film's increasingly insane tone is sustained with hilarious results.

Grade: B+

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  1. sixfoot said...

    I thought this movie was hilarious. Worth watching just for John Cleese and his enormous choppers. That bunch of high rollers who'll bet on anything are a hoot as well. Good fun!