Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
|Featuring:||Whoopi Goldberg, John Cleese, Cuba Gooding Jr., Rowan Atkinson, Jon Lovitz|
|Producer:||Jerry Zucker, Janet Zucker, Sean Daniel|
Watch out! “Rat Race” will want to trap you in its maze of moral decay, but don’t fall for it. There isn’t any cheese at the end of this run! “Behold!…in this film it completely loses all its power.”
I hate to be the one to Rat on this terrible movie, but once again Hollywood manages to give comedy a bad name. The gas from two Oscar winners (Whoopi Goldberg and Cuba Gooding Jr.) can’t power this flic over the finish line.
I liked some of the all-star journeys of the past. It was the adventures in the late 50’s and 60’s that would throw dozens of Hollywood stars together in a frantic time-is-running-out plot. These globe-trotting extravaganzas would sometimes feel like one big long chase scene, but they were fun. My favorites were “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “The Great Race”, “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines,” and “Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies” (you may want to rent one to see what I’m talking about). Many critics are comparing “Rat Race” to films of this genre. The similarities are few and the disappointments many. Not even retro-style opening credits can help this film trapped by no story and many contrived scenes that fall flat like a house of cards.
“Rat Race” is a film that is driven by the motivation of greed. We have a group of casino losers brought together to chase after a $2 million dollar prize (I know—that’s a lot of cheese!). Donald Sinclair (John Cleese) is an extremely rich casino owner (who must have bought Matt Dillon’s, “There’s Something About Mary”, false teeth on Ebay). He enjoys concocting unusual bets for his millionaire clients. They will bet on these six unsuspecting mice in a race that has no rules. Each contestant gets a key to a locker in Silver City, N.M. There is a transmitter in each key, so that Sinclair and his rich friends can track who is ahead.
The contestants are Randy Pear (Jon Lovitz). He promised his wife Beverly (Kathy Najimy) and two children a fun-filled vacation in Las Vegas. He must lie to his wife in order for the family to stay together (starting to get the picture?).
Mr. Pollini (Rowan Atkinson a.k.a Mr. Bean) is a pleasant Italian man on holiday in America. Vera Baker (Whoopi Goldberg) is in town to meet a daughter that she gave up for adoption. Owen Templeton (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is a former NFL referee. He is loathed by every gambler in the country for blowing a call during a high-profile game. Nick Shaffer (Breckin Meyer) is an attorney from Chicago. He is attending a friend’s bachelor party. Our final participants are the Cody brothers, Duane (Seth Green) and Blaine (Vince Vieluf). They help add to the dumb and dumber aspect of this movie. Blaine has a speech impediment because he tried to pierce his tongue himself (are you laughing yet?) So who do you wanna root for?
The competitors use various forms of transportation (passing grades for good effort here) to try and reach their destination. We have some typical tourist traps thrown in for gags. We even get to hear Smash Mouth sing “All Star” again (movie trivia fans—how many times has that song appeared?).
Director Jerry Zucker, who soared in the comedy “Airplane” and the romantic drama “Ghost”, crash lands in this film full of sexual innuendo, pornography, profanity (including the use of the f-word), cross-dressing, lesbian bikers, and implied child molestation (I’m not laughing). Who knows, maybe enough word-of-mouth can keep this loser in the starting blocks. His 80-plus cast did provide work for three of his family members (how nice). Too bad his cast didn’t work to provide a decent comedy. Where are Red Skelton, Buddy Hackett, Bill Cosby, and Jonathan Winters when you need them? It is disappointing that almost every opportunity for comic hijinks is missed. Screenwriter Andy Breckman needs to re-clock his script and realize we’re still not laughing (yes—I know he writes for David Letterman). Yes, there are some funny moments, funny stunts, and funny sight gags, but many of the punch-lines were spoiled by movie trailers. Even with the gags, “Rat Race” can’t recover from going morally flat. Ninety minutes never seemed so long. The real pay-off for this comedy is to skip it and use the money to buy a Mark Lowery or Ken Davis video, and invite some friends over for wholesome comedy that can truly tickle your funny bone.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. True, some of the content was objectionable, and I would definitely not recommend the movie for young children, but the overall theme of the film is in fact a good, moral one. Yes, the characters are all driven by greed, but tell me, if offered this chance for 2 million dollars, who wouldn’t be? And greed isn’t the theme of this movie at all! In fact, it makes the greedy look bad, and the generous look good! Furthermore, the acting was terrific, and the jokes non-stop. If it had not been for the few objectionable moments, I would have given it a rating of Above Average, and it would have been just as funny.
[Average / 4]
—Will Moes, age 16