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Rat Race Review
Directed By: Jerry Zucker
Starring: Whoopi Goldberg, John Cleese, Cuba Gooding Jr., Rowan Atkinson, Jon Lovitz, Seth Green, Breckin Meyer, Dave Thomas, Amy Smart, Kathy Najimy, Dave Thomas, Smashmouth.
Synopsis: An all star ensemble cast star as lucky winners of special tokens in the slot machines at a Las Vegas casino. John Cleese is an eccentric casino owner who informs them that they are invited to participate in a race: the first of them to reach Silver City, New Mexico, will receive the $2 million cash prize. To make things interesting, there are no rules, which leads to the commandeering of a bus, a run-in with Nazis, the use of a high-speed experimental car, and revenge on a cheating boyfriend--And that's just the beginning.
Rat Race is the best Sunday afternoon relaxing comedy I have seen in a long time. Honestly. I sat down with no expectations and was never in love with the film but all Zucker and this motley crew set out to do was get some laughs and there several laugh out loud moments and many moments that just keep a grin on one's face. Obviously mission accomplished.
The story is akin to the classic epic comedy It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World where a pile of money waits for comedians who will do anything to get there. A great permise that could be made time and time again (and probably will) with wildly different chase scenarios. Some work...some do not. However, that seems to be the point. Several forms of comedy are here for varying tastes. Pratfalls, prop, with some well placed sarcasm along with endless Keystone Kops style chase humor and despite it all, for some reason this film never comes off as mean-spirited.
Firstly, I was just glad to see John Cleese being at the least mildly amusing compared to some of his more recent efforts...in fact, the scenes where he has all the high-rollers placing bets in different contexts make for some great side scenes in the film.
Jon Lovitz also has a moment that one can not help but grin at the sheer stupidity of it. Lovitz's character is the one who has a run-in with the Nazi's and by the time he ends up stealing Hitler's car I was sold...some funny, funny stuff here.
Also some highlight moments with Rowan Atkinson as a charming, sweet Italian named Enrico Pollini. Seth Green, who just gets better and better and should be getting some bigger parts.
Whoopi Goldberg's storyline starts out weak but gets better and by the last bit where she steals a rocket car gets a solid laugh. Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart are surprisingly better here than they have been in awhile but sadly it is Cuba Gooding Jr.'s segments that come off more annoying than funny. He busts his ass to get the humor out of the scenes but the whole 'Impersonator' joke (this time a gaggle of Lucille Ball impersonators) is just tired.
Still, in a summer such as 2001 this is a nice refreshing and light surprise. Giving it the ol' 3 stars out of 5. It's not Airplane or Hot Shots (Part Deux) but at least when the script is supposed to be funny, for the most part it is.
Copyright© Written By: Rob Paul
Cast Phone Calls with Jerry and Andy
Regional Code: Region Code.1
Audio Tracks: English 5.1
Ratios: Widescreen 1.85:1, Anamorphic
The DVD Review:
The Making of Rat Race: A 28 minute documentary that spends the first five minutes telling you what the movie you just watched is all about. However, it then really picks up with some behind the scenes humor and footage. It never really tells you how the movie itself was made, it is more a promotional piece but it does have some segements that make it at least entertaining when it's not being informative. It also includes a lot of footage that was cut from the film and didn't make the deleted scenes on the DVD.
Deleted Scenes: Several scenes here, for the most part good choices. Each scene is introduced by Jerry Zucker, the director, who explains why each scene was cut.
Gag Reel: I love a good gag reel. I mean, I really love seeing the actors not only enjoy themselves on the set but also making the mistakes. For the most part these bloopers are simple slip ups but about three of them are just laugh out loud, especially the one where Lovitz turns to Cuba and asks him if they 'showed him the money'.
Interview with Jerry Zucker (director) and Andrew Breckman (writer): An eight minute featurette with Jerry and Andrew discussing some reasoning behind the movie.
Jerry and Andy Call the Actors: This is unique. Instead of a commentary over the DVD, although it sounds like these were done to be placed over the film but they decided to just to have a unique segment where each actor is called by Jerry and Andy and they actually discuss the film, some anecdotal stories. Jerry and Andy claim that they were bored doing the commentary and decided to start calling the actor's themselves. The only disadvantage to this is that there are no visuals. Lovitz's call is hysterical, as they try to get him to pull over because his cell phone is breaking up however Lovitz is racing home to pack for a trip to London. You can't make this stuff up folks! The downside is the endless Hollywood banter of 'hey man, I love you...love your work' stuff.
About three minutes solid of one shot between Seth Green and Vincent Vielef giggling their way through a take that is painfully funny to watch. More comedy discs should feature this stuff, but then again, maybe most comedy films don't have a cast that seems to get along this well.
Final Tally: I gave the movie a three star review and the DVD ends up topping it with the material. A four out of five on special features...the whole package? A total of 3 and a half stars out of 5 (How did I get 3 and a half stars? 3 stars for the movie + 4 stars for the disc out of ten then divided by two...see? Simple Math.)