US Release Date: 08-17-2001
Directed by: Jerry Zucker
- John Cleese, as
- Donald P. Sinclair
- Rowan Atkinson, as
- Enrico Pollini
- Whoopi Goldberg, as
- Vera Baker
- Cuba Gooding Jr., as
- Owen Templeton
- Seth Green, as
- Duane Cody
- Jon Lovitz, as
- Randy Pear
- Breckin Meyer, as
- Nick Schaffer
- Lanei Chapman, as
- Merrill Jennings
- Wayne Knight as
- Zack Mallozzi
John Cleese in Rat Race.
You'd expect a movie directed by Jerry Zucker, one of the men responsible in some way for the movies Airplane!, Naked Gun, Top Secret, to be funny. You'd expect a movie starring, among others, John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, and Seth Green, to be funny. With all of these talented people working on a movie with a plot based on the classic comedy, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World, you'd expect it to be funny. I guess it is only due to the talents of all these people that this rather lame movie, manages to be funny at all. Because it is a funny movie, but only just, and perhaps more funny than it deserves.
A group of gamblers in Vegas, the aforementioned stars, are all chosen at random to participate in a race with $2 million as the jackpot. The race is sponsored by Casino owner, Donald Sinclair (John Cleese), who is desperate to keep his high-rollers entertained by giving them something new to bet on. The varied contestants all try to find different ways of reaching their destination and they all have different adventures along the way. Some of these adventures are funny, others not quite so. Some of the more successful jokes, include John Lovitz and his family stealing Hitler's car which is on display in a Nazi museum, the bit with the cow, and Rowan Atkinson's Italian Narcoleptic character. Others don't work nearly well enough, such as the bus full of Lucy impersonators, the part with Wayne Knight and the heart, and Seth Green's brothers tongue piercing, among many others. And the real problem is that it's the joke that don't work, that they tend to drag out and keep repeating over, and over.
Like so many movies of late, the problem lies with the writing. If as much thought had only gone into the writing as went into the casting, this could have become a classic, but instead the movie goes for cheap laughs, unfunny sight gags, and tediously repetitive jokes. A lame attempt to recapture the magic of a sixties classic, Rat Race only manages to be a mildly entertaining one, and one that even cops out with it's ending.
Rowan Atkinson and Wayne Knight in Rat Race.
Rat Race is a throw back to old slapstick comedies like Bringing Up Baby and What's Up Doc. Actually it is a remake of Its A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. The plot is pretty much the same. The difference is that Rat Race is too short and the ending stinks.
A group of people find themselves in a race for 2 million dollars. They fight, cheat and steal their way across the south west. In Its A Mad Mad Mad Mad World we have character development and sub plots going on as the race is being played out. A marriage falls apart. A man learns to stand up to his mother in law. And almost everyone cracks under the pressure.
In Rat Race not enough time is spent on any character to really develop them. Whoopi Goldberg's character could have easily been expanded as she is traveling with her daughter that she has just met for the first time since giving her up for adoption as a baby. Their initial meeting was very humorous but that gets lost quickly among the race.
Car chases, mix ups and slapstick comedy play a big part. My kids loved the whole cow/balloon part. Some of my favorite jokes though, were some of the more subtle ones. John Cleese's character announcing that the race has begun. "Go" he says to a bunch of blank faces who don't budge. He then informs the clueless group that one participant is winning simply because he is standing closest to the door. Another subtle joke I liked was the Lucy's. Yes, subtle. Sure their whinnying was obnoxious but every expression and movement the Lucy's made were a direct, dead on imitation of her. However, the John Lovitz bit at the Barbie museum, and subsequent running Nazi jokes will forever be this movies most notable.
Like Its A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, this movie starts out demonstrating how greedy we as humans can be. In the original they all nearly fight to the death atop of a fire truck ladder for the money. In Rat Race the ending is so sappy it hurts to watch. They end up on a stage of a charity concert. You can guess the rest.
A funny film, but it could have used a much better ending.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is one of my all time favorite movies. Rat Race sucks in comparison. It could have and should have been so much better. The only really funny parts were the Lucy’s, and Hitler’s car. The single biggest laugh of the movie comes when Cuba Gooding screams, “Shut up you crazy Lucy bitches!” The second biggest is Jon Lovitz at the podium during the WWII veterans reunion. But for the most part the laughs are few and far between.
The Seth Green character and his brother were not amusing. The cow bit didn’t make me laugh. And I cannot fathom why anyone on earth would find Rowan Atkinson funny. I agree with Eric that the relationship between Whoopi Goldberg’s character and her daughter begins promisingly but is not allowed to develop. And while I didn’t find Rat Race to be all that funny, the ending completely destroys any sense of madcap fun that was contained in the first 90 percent of the movie. Starving children, really?
Let’s review. We have a recycled idea featuring very broad slapstick, no character development and a sell out ending. Do yourself a favor, rent Mad World instead.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (2001)