Jerry Zucker's Rat Race scatters such a broad pattern of jokes that at least a few are destined to hit their target.
Thursday, August 23, 2001
They''re Off: An all-star cast chases after some not-so-easy money in Rat Race.Why some production executives at Paramount Pictures thought that now was a good time to revive the big-ensemble chase comedy formula is anyone''s guess. It''s a mad, mad, mad, mad world, indeed. But, given that reviving (or at least rehashing) the genre seems to be the whole point of Rat Race, things actually turn out better than one might have expected.
Rat Race goes for fast and dumb and, dammit, it connects dead-on with the funny bone. The movie is a stuffed grab bag of setups, characters, and gags tossed scattershot across the screen. Many land DOA, but the odds favor the movie''s style for its ability to score laughs due, if nothing else, to sheer volume. It''s the spitball approach to filmmaking: Throw as much as possible up against the wall and then see what sticks. Viewers here will find themselves laughing a great deal, even though they''ll have to wipe some spit from their faces along with their tears of laughter.
The film''s setup takes six random visitors to a Vegas casino and turns them into figurative rats who are given the opportunity to race each other to a locker in Silver City, New Mexico, in order to win all the cheese-a duffel bag filled with $2 million. The contest is the brainchild of an eccentric and wealthy casino owner (John Cleese), who devises the event for the pleasure of a group of high-rollers in need of new thrills. The six include a goofy narcoleptic Italian (Rowan Atkinson), a mother (Whoopi Goldberg) reuniting with the daughter (Lanai Chapman) she gave up for adoption, an NFL coach (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) disgraced by a wrong call he made during a televised game, a man (Jon Lovitz) on vacation with his family who lies to them about their sudden change in destination, a pair of trouble-making brothers (Seth Green and Vince Vieluf), and an uptight lawyer (Breckin Meyer) in town for a bachelor convention who hooks up with a helicopter pilot (Amy Smart), who agrees to go his way. None of the characters or their plight is very well-developed, although some of these actors are simply funnier than the others-for example, Lovitz, Goldberg, Cleese, and maybe Atkinson. Gooding is just plain noisy, although it''s hard not to laugh uproariously when his character''s stuck driving a busload of Lucys to an "I Love Lucy" convention.
Much of the movie defies logic and physics, but scenes move quickly enough for them not to have a terribly disruptive impact. The look of the film, however, suffers from having been blandly filmed in Calgary and not making use of the fabulous scenery that would have ordinarily appeared during a road trip between Nevada and New Mexico. Directed by Airplane!''s Jerry Zucker and written by "Saturday Night Live"/"David Letterman" alum Andy Breckman, Rat Race is an uneven hodge-podge. Despite its many pitfalls, however, I defy anyone to sit through
Rat Race... ( * * 1/2 )Rated: PG-13, 105 min.
Directed by: Jerry Zucker
Starring: Breckin Meyer, Vince Vieluf, Kathy Najimy, Jon Lovitz, Cuba Gooding Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Dave Thomas, Wayne Knight, Dean Cain, Rowan Atkinson, Paul Rodriguez, Kathy Bates, Lanai Chapman, Seth Green, Amy Smart, John Cleese
Where: Northridge, Lighthouse
When: See Movie Times