Review No. 499
Lungs hurting? Try laughing till you can’t feel your lungs.
DIRECTED BY JERRY ZUCKER. PRODUCED BY JERRY ZUCKER, JANET ZUCKER, AND SEAN DANIEL. WRITTEN BY ANDY BRECKMAN. STARRING JOHN CLEESE (DONALD P. SINCLAIR), BRECKIN MEYER (NICK SCHAFFER), AMY SMART (TRACY FAUCET), ROWAN ATKINSON (ENRICO POLLINI), CUBA GOODING JR. (OWEN TEMPLETON), WHOOPI GOLDBERG (VERA BAKER), SETH GREEN (DUANE CODY), VINCE VIELUF (BLAINE CODY), JON LOVITZ (RANDY PEAR), LANAI CHAPMAN (MERRILL JENNINGS), KATHY NAJIMY (BEV PEAR), DAVE THOMAS (GRISHAM), AND WAYNE KNIGHT (ZACK MALLOZZI). ALSO STARRING BRODY SMITH, JILLIAN MARIE HUBERT, PAUL RODRIGUEZ, DEAN CAIN, BRANDY LEDFORD, SILAS WEIR MITCHELL, COLLEEN CAMP, DEBORAH THEAKER, AND GLORIA ALLRED. DISTRIBUTED BY PARAMOUNT PICTURES ON AUGUST 17, 2001. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 52 MINUTES. RATED PG-13 BY THE MPAA, FOR SEXUAL REFERENCES, CRUDE HUMOR, PARTIAL NUDITY AND LANGUAGE.
RAT RACE WAS WATCHED ON JUNE 12, 2013.
Rat Race is a slapstick comedy from Jerry Zucker, part of the trio responsible for such classics as Airplane! and The Naked Gun. I must say, this is distinct proof that even without the involvement of the other two, his comic approach is magnificent, and he still has a great mind for goofy, yet memorable “guilty pleasure” movies. Rat Race has virtually all we could ask for in a movie of its kind. Save for Leslie Nielsen, but honestly, we can associate “Eet’s a race! Eet’s a race! I’m weenning!” with Rowan Atkinson, just as easily as we can associate “Don’t call me Shirley” with Nielsen.
And the movie is flawed, but the mistakes are the errors of general moviemaking, particularly in the 21st century. The one thing that sets Rat Race apart from Zucker’s previous comedies, is that it doesn’t seem to mock a slightly timeworn premise. Instead, it embraces it. The story here, as well as the idea of an ensemble cast, dates back to 1963, when It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World became a box office success. The story concerns eight different people who believe they’re going to Silver City, New Mexico, for the $2 million they won at a casino. But really, they’re being set up so that their mindless rat race can be bet on by a group of high rollers.
I’ll forgive Rat Race for the ending. It’s as if all those involved are saying, “The message here is, ‘movies are a great source for cash grab,’ so let’s feature a Smash Mouth cameo.” Why am I forgiving the movie? Because, other than that, there really isn’t anything cash grab about it. Yes, there are countless well-known comedians here. For some of them, this is just another more; for others, it’s a star vehicle; and for some, it’s a return to the screen. But for all of them, it’s a successfully humorous delivery, which is why Rat Race is a decent movie. It doesn’t often make sense, and it’s not supposed to. We learn that the characters have to go 563 miles from Vegas to reach their destination. 563 miles is damn good space for humor. We have a human heart thrown from an ambulance; a Jewish man taking his family to the Barbie museum, which turns out to be an exhibition about Nazi Klaus Barbie; two women tricked into driving into a near-death situation because they refused to buy a squirrel from a strange vagabond; a man who ends up driving a bus full of obnoxious I Love Lucy freaks. I’ve spoiled these scenes by means of description. Seeing them is where your lungs get a workout.