review by Elias Savada, 17 August
end of April, Paramount Pictures arranged a screening of Rat
Race in Northern Virginia for area film critics. What little
laughter that work print presentation generated obviously was
exacerbated by so few bodies in such a large auditorium. By the time
the farce ended I already had my tagline: "It's a bad, bad,
bad, bad world," reflecting how poorly this blatantly crude
rip-off of Stanley Kramer's similarly themed 1963 mad super-comedy
sat in the pit of my stomach. Honoring my commitment to review the
finished product, I trudged back to a preview a few weeks back. Lo
and behold, there was still a bitter taste, despite the addition of
a splashy title sequence, more background scoring, and a release
version with better color timing.
and a large amount of unforeseen laughter from the overflow crowd,
eager for heapings of dim-witted slapschtick. Was I watching the
same film as everyone else? Yup.
Did I need to dumb down my sophisticated expectations to tickle my
funny bone with some of the lowbrow antics up on the screen? I
guess so, not that I (generally) see a lot of humor in
horror-stricken cows dangled from hot air balloons. The end
result after the second helping of Rat
Race was that I became conflicted on how to approach Jerry
Zucker's stupid new all-star comedy. Can I balance the talented
creative force behind Airplane,
the Naked Gun films, and Ghost
with the romantic excesses of his First
Knight and A Walk in the Clouds? Can
answer is no. I
still don't like this mixed bag of Cannonball
Run, Planes, Trains &
Automobiles, and It's a
Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, but I'm willing to admit it might be
just the right silly serum to help you forget your impending job
layoff from Ford, a flooded basement from last week's torrential
downpours here in DC, or that annoying summer cold following you
around. Zucker and his writer Andy Breckman (a Late
Night with David Letterman alum responsible for the unfunny big
screen adaptation of the 1950s TV classic Sgt.
Bilko) throw hundreds of offensive stunts, expendable
double-takes, and analogous kitchen sinks at you in Rat
Race. They force you to follow the outrageous road trip antics
of six social castoffs, randomly selected by egocentric Vegas casino
mogul Donald Sinclair (Fawlty
Towers' John Cleese), to appease the greedy appetites of his
zealous band of high rollers, handicapping the action from via
two-way mirrors and remote tracking devices. As the assorted rag-tag
teams of affiliated families, partners, and other hangers-on
coagulate on their way to $2 million in a train station locker in
Silver City, New Mexico, all manner of mayhem and muck are attracted
to the contestants.
you're left rooting that these none of these dregs of society wins
and that the more light-hearted tragedy that befalls them, the
better. Among the challengers?
and bitter executive Merrill Jennings (Lanai "Attitude"
Chapman) has just been reunited with her overly sentimental birth
mother Vera Baker (Whoopi "Cushion" Goldberg) after twenty-seven
years. They meet their match with a roadside squirrel peddler (Kathy
"Misery Awaits You" Bates) who provides brief cameodic
NFL referee Owen Templeton (Cuba "Show Me the Money"
Gooding, Jr.) bemoans a notoriously bad coin toss call that makes
him the target of a vengeful cab driver (Paul "You Lost All My
Money" Rodriguez). His various cross-gender misidentifications
follow him to a busload of Lucy imitators bound for Santa Fe (If you
want to honor the Queen of Comedy, buy a few sheets of her new
commemorative stamps instead of forking over lunch money for this
hemorrhage of a comedy).
lawyer Nick Shaffer (Brecklin "What, Another Road Trip?" Meyer) bypasses a return flight to Chicago when he
falls for drippy Tracy Faucet (Amy "What, Another Road Trip?" Smart), a flying ace with a boyfriend and a few
marbles loose. She offers the mutual Charles "How the Heck Did
My Name Get Mixed Up in this Movie" Lindbergh fan a lift to
Roswell. People don't kill people. Helicopters kill people.
and Blaine Cody are mischievous misfits, brothers and Ying/Yuck
partners in imbecilic liability claim scams. And able to climb radar
towers with a single Ford Bronco. Seth "Mad Cow" Green is
partnered with Vince "Why Can't I Get Top Billing?"
Vieluf, the doofus deputy in Clay Pigeons gets a metal accoutrement embedded in his tongue as
part of the unintelligible character that mumbles and stumbles about
the Southwestern landscape.
"Hey, I'm Funny!" Lovitz and Kathy "Hey, I've Lost
Weight!" Najimy are part of the vacationing rotten Pear family
from Hell who find themselves visiting a (Klaus) Barbie museum on
the road to mis-fortune. The get-rich-quick patriarch ends up
packing his wife and kids into Hitler's touring car for most of the
Rowan "Able to Malaprop in Any Language" Atkinson spins
his Mr. Bean character into Enrico Pollini, a narcoleptic Italian
who shares a plate of cheer with Zack (Wayne "I'm Still
Big" Knight), a slacker/ambulance driver transporting an
ice-packed donor heart. Trouble is unleashed when he suggests his
passenger take a peek at the organ.
is a sucker punch. Zucker and his team gather together a ton of
talent, toss it around, and chuck it at the screen. Some of it falls
off, a giggle her, a moan there. Much like the poop bit wherein Jon
Lovitz's Randy Pear forces his daughter to "do it" out the
side of the family van. Cut to the next shot of a highway patrolman
writing him a ticket (defamation of character?) while his partner is
cleaning the patrol car's windshield. The film's frantic pace belies
a lack of filmmaking talent in this patchwork effort. With the
hundreds of gags hurled at you, you'll laugh at more or less of them
depending on which side of the bed you woke up on. Rat
Race tumbled out of the wrong side for me.
Click here to read Cynthia Fuchs' interview.
Cuba Gooding, Jr.
PG - Parental Guidance Suggested
may not be suitable