Rat Race
Paramount // PG-13 // December 14, 2001
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted September 18, 2001
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The Movie:

One of the few bright spots of the late Summer season, "Rat Race" brings back "Airplane" director Jerry Zucker in fine form. It's another one of the usual Zucker efforts - throw everything at the audience and see what sticks - and actually, most of it works well. Sort of a remake of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", the film starts off bringing all of the main characters in front of millionaire casino owner Donald Sinclair (John Cleese). After joking with them about being selected for being saved from the end of the world, he lets them in on the real deal: there's two million dollars in the locker of a train station in New Mexico; the first one there gets the cash - and, "there are no rules".

A few of the players pair off into teams, while others prefer to go their own way: Duane and Blaine Cody (Seth Green and Vince Vieluf), Vera and Merrill (Whoopi Goldberg and Lanei Chapman), Nick and Tracy (Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart), Randy Pear (Jon Lovitz) and his family, Owen Templeton (Cuba Gooding Jr.), Enrico (Rowan Atkinson). The group heads off towards their destination by train, helicopter, bus, feet and balloon.

I will admit that it didn't look good; the trailers showed little promise, but the movie actually comes up with some inspired comedic moments, especially revolving around Lovitz and family. One of the film's funniest running jokes focuses not on the racers, but those betting on them. We're shown that billionaires from around the world were brought together to bet on the winner. Along the way, the wealthy and bored individuals find many other things to bet on, including the first one of them to have air sickness.

The film doesn't start off particularly well; the tone seems a little off and things aren't moving along very well. About 15 minutes in, I was already looking at my watch, which was not a particularly good sign. Yet, when the race finally begins, the movie really hits an impressive stride. Although not completely consistent, the movie got funnier and funnier as it went along. The performers were not always that amusing, though - Goldberg and Chapman are really hardly given much to do, while Atkinson's bits were not all that funny. Meyer and Smart (who were both in "Road Trip") have good chemistry again here and Cleese, Lovitz and Green are quite entertaining.

The only piece of the film that doesn't quite come together is the ending; it's warm-hearted, but goes on too long and provides yet another appearance by rock band Smash Mouth, who's been on the soundtrack for far too many films at this point. Still, "Rat Race" works far better than it should have for the majority of the running time, a fun couple of hours of comedic chaos that generated some solid laughs. Maybe not worth full price, but certainly worthy of a matinee or rental when it eventually hits DVD.

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