7 February 2002 | jhclues
It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad-- Rat Race?
If you've seen the trailer for this movie, you're probably thinking it looks hilarious and you've made a mental note that it's one you don't want to miss. More often than not, however, the funniest stuff is in the previews, and when you see the whole movie it's a let-down. But I'm here to tell you, that is decidedly NOT the case with `Rat Race,' directed by Jerry Zucker, and furthermore, make a mental note: This movie is hilarious, and one you DO NOT want to miss. In the tradition of Stanley Kramer's 1963 BIG comedy hit, `It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,' this one is exactly what it is supposed to be-- Fun (yes, with a capital `F'), and Funny-- with one laugh after another that just keep on a-comin'.
Las Vegas casino owner Donald Sinclair (John Cleese), likes to offer his elite customers-- the `high rollers'-- something they can't get anywhere else, in the form of things they can gamble on that are so bizarre you can only imagine. And the big one he comes up with this time begins with the planting of six lucky tokens in his slot machines. Those who win the tokens are invited to attend a meeting, at which time Sinclair announces that they are to be the lucky participants in a `race' of sorts. In a train station locker in the small town of Silver City, New Mexico, there is $2,000,000 waiting for whomever gets to it first. He passes out six identical keys to the token bearers that will open the locker, shouts `Go!' and they're off! And Sinclair's high rollers proceed to put down some big bucks on their favorite horse-- uh, dog!-- uh-- Well, you get the idea...
The participants include Nick (Breckin Meyer), who is pretty much just a regular guy; NFL referee Owen Templeton (Cuba Gooding Jr.), hated by millions because of a recent botched call; brothers Duane and Blaine Cody (Seth Green, Vince Vieluf), not the brightest bulbs to begin with, and hampered in their communications by Blaine's newly pierced tongue; a mother, Vera (Whoopi Goldberg), and the daughter she gave up for adoption and with whom she has just reunited, Merrill (Lanei Chapman); Randy Pear (Jon Lovitz), who has a hard time making his wife, Bev (Kathy Najimy), and their two kids, Kimberly (Jillian Marie) and Jason (Brody Smith) understand why he's interrupted their Vegas vacation to drag them off suddenly to New Mexico; and-- last but not least-- Enrico Pollini (Rowan Atkinson), a narcoleptic Italian. It's quite the eclectic bunch, and they definitely put on quite a show.
During the rush for the gold, they encounter a number of people and situations that drive the laugh meter through the roof, including: A woman (Kathy Bates) selling squirrels by the roadside (Vera and Merrill); a group of `Lucy' impersonators on their way to some kind of Lucy convention (Owen); a `Barbie' museum that isn't what it seems, and not a great place for the Jewish Pear family to visit; an errant cow, a hot air balloon and a guy who overhears too much (Duane and Blaine); a jealous helicopter pilot named Tracy (Amy Smart), who buzzes her boyfriend's house at a most inopportune time (Nick); an ambulance driver, Zack (Wayne Knight), who is transporting a human heart for a transplant, and suffers something akin to the same fate as that famous `cat' due to his curiosity (Enrico). Zucker and writer Andy Breckman pulled out all the stops with this one, and the result (and there's much, much, MUCH more than what's mentioned here) is some pretty wild stuff.
The secret to making this all work, is above all to keep it moving-- and Zucker certainly does that. He relies heavily on sight gags and slapstick, and knows how to set up the schtick for a real payoff, which he succeeds at time and again throughout the entire film. it's all fairly controlled insanity, and with a couple of exceptions when Zucker wanders into Jim Carrey/Farrelly Brothers territory, it's pretty easy to swallow. Most importantly, IT'S FUNNY! with enough different kinds of humor thrown in to satisfy just about any taste. And that's a rare thing to be said of any comedy, and it's a big part of why this one's such a gem.
The cast is superb, but the highlights have to be Cuba Gooding Jr., who demonstrates a real knack for comedy; John Cleese, who can make you laugh just by smiling, brandishing as he does a spectacular set of teeth; and Rowan Atkinson, who does some masterful bits of physical comedy, the likes of which rivals the best of Peter Sellers and Buster Keaton. The way he mugs and moves is absolutely hysterical.
The supporting cast includes Gloria Allred (Herself), Dave Thomas (Mr. Grisham), Dean Cain (Shawn), Paul Rodriguez (Gus), Brandy Ledford (Vicky), Tristin Leffler (Pierced Girl) and Andrew Kavovit. One that lives up to it's expectations and more, `Rat Race' is everything you want it to be, a laugh a minute movie that never lets up, and one that won't wear your brain out making you think about it too much. This is pure entertainment that'll lead you down the road to riot (make that `laugh' riot). There hasn't been anything quite like this since Jimmy Durante kicked that bucket and started that other bunch of madcaps off looking for `The big 'dub-a-yeh'.' Zucker and his gang really pulled this one off, and moreover, they did it with style. And that's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 8/10.