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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.31%
Worth A Look: 17.69%
Pretty Bad: 14.62%
Total Crap: 14.62%

7 reviews, 88 user ratings

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Rat Race
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by Scott Weinberg

"Like watching a hyperactive child wind down for the evening."
2 stars

Since this is a comedy directed by one-third of the team responsible for the finest American comedy of the modern era (that's Airplane!, of course), you might expect this to be a fast-paced, laugh-a-minute marathon of humor. You'd be wrong. Despite a few solid giggles dispersed about every 25 minutes, you'd be hard pressed to find a comedy that works so hard and delivers so little.

I've noticed that several reviewers liken the comedy in Rat Race to the inspired lunacy of movies like Airplane! and The Naked Gun. To those people, I'd like to offer a brief yet smug seminar.

Satire - A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit. Airplane! is a satire. It tweaks the conventions of the Airport films as well as popular culture in general through the use of the most absurd styles of comedy imaginable. Despite what the film looks and sounds like, Airplane! is a smart movie.

Farce - A light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and often slapstick elements are used for humorous effect. Rat Race is a farce, and not a very good one at that. It places (allegedly) real humans (and nary a likeable one to be found) in truly ridiculous situations and then hopes to plumb some humor from soap-filled buses, upside-down flying cows, the always clever "car crashes" and a young child forced to poop out of a moving car. In keeping with the overall vibe of the film, Rat Race is a stupid, stupid movie. And while "stupid" certainly CAN be funny, in this's just not.

Obviously inspired by such questionable comedy classics as Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the forgotten slapstick wonkfest entitled Scavenger Hunt, Jerry Zucker's latest movie is definitely not the return to comedic form that fans have been hoping for since this director went "legit", lost his funny bone and started directing films like First Knight.

You know your movie is in trouble when it starts out with one of these "wacky" animated sequences. Man, nothing gets my giggles rolling like seeing a cartoon likeness of Cuba Gooding Jr. falling on his head. The plot revolves around one of those "winner takes all" race scenarios that are so popular in movies that nobody really likes. (My apologies to those movie fans out there who hold Million Dollar Mystery in high regard.) Rat Race is essentially a 21st century version of The Cannonball Run, only instead of the accent being on fast cars, eye-popping cleavage and a humiliatingly drunken Dean Martin, the focus here is on tired pratfalls, jokes that go "thud" and nonsensical camera mugging.

The "story" is best described as episodic...and that's me being kind. An episode of Saturday Night Live has more story continuity. And since it's a movie comprised of about 6 mini-movies in one, here's a brief rundown:

Six people chosen a random are entered into a cross-country treasure hunt. Each person is given a gold key that unlocks a train station locker containing 2 million smackers. That's it. Another bold leap forward in the evolution of the art of screenwriting.

Jon Lovitz and Kathy Najimy have two chubby kids. The four of them make a run for the cash, although Lovitz (giggle) doesn't tell his family about it. Lovitz's main gag is to appear as Hitler at a WWII reunion. Don't ask. This sequence is one of the most painfully unfunny things I've ever seen...and I've seen Ishtar.

Breckin Meyer is a bland piece of toast sorta guy who enlists the aid of pretty Amy Smart...who is a helicopter pilot. Their big gag comes when they demolish a swimming pool with...a helicopter. Do your sides hurt? Mine don't.

Seth Green and Vince Vieluf are two wanna-be con artist brothers who are forced to commandeer a hot-air balloon to expedite their journey. Since these two are irretrievably stupid, complications ensue in the form of a key-stealing thief and an upside-down cow.

Rowan Atkinson is a grating Italian fellow who conveniently (for the plot) also suffers from narcolepsy. This unintelligible dolt pairs up with Newman from Seinfeld, and if there were ever three words that ensured a swift death of all things amusing, they would be "Newman" "from" and "Seinfeld".

Whoopi Goldberg and her estranged daughter (Lanei Chapman) end up borrowing a rocket car and they whoosh across the desert going 600 miles an hour. Seriously, let me know when this starts to sound funny.

Oh, and I saved the best for last.

Cuba Gooding Jr. plays an NFL referee who has recently screwed up royally on National TV. Basically, everyone who sees him wants to beat him up. Count me in. Cuba's big gag (pun intended) comes when he assumes the guise of a bus driver. Unfortunately, the bus he's driving is filled with Lucille Ball impersonators. Honestly - It should be illegal for comedy to be this clever.

Of course, there are various little roles that prove to be just perfect for Hollywood types whose careers are on the wane. Actors like Dave Thomas, Kathy Bates and Paul Rodriguez stand around the periphery, desperately scrounging for any spare punch lines. Trust me when I say that they all leave hungry.

To be fair, there are a handful of solid gags that did indeed tickle me a bit. One involves a rather funny slo-mo shot of a monster truck rally catastrophe, while most of the other good bits are left to John Cleese and his gaggle of high-rolling gamblers.

Oh wait, I didn't mention that part? Yeah, Cleese is the casino owner and this race is nothing more than a massive "horse race", with millionaires betting on the outcome. Based on the movie's atrocious third act, I'm certain that it's not just these gamblers who went home unhappy.

Because Rat Race offers perhaps the worst ending of any movie from the past five years. Yes, it's even worse than the "WTF?!?!" ending from last month's unnecessary Planet of the Apes remake. Here's a little clue into spotting a poor movie: If at any point in the film a character points offscreen and yells "Hey look! It's Smashmouth" before the bargain bin band kicks into their uber-grating tune "All-Star"'re watching a bad movie.

It's not the fault of the cast that this movie is so depressingly flaccid. Nearly every actor onscreen is working their hardest to wring some giggles out of the inane goings-on. Some, like Seth Green and John Cleese, earned their paychecks. Others, such as the never-again-to-be-funny Whoopi Goldberg, the unbelievable-that-he-ever-won-an-Oscar Cuba Gooding and the never-ever-ever funny Newman from Seinfeld, simply make you want to remove your shoes and lob them at the movie screen.

Aside from about 6 minutes worth of solid gags, there's nothing in Rat Race that isn't forced, tired, trite or predictable. If this movie were one-third as funny as the cast obviously thought it was, then we'd have a comic masterwork. As it stands, Rat Race is a limp and homogenized comedy product, as empty and belabored as comedies get. If you'd have told me that the co-director of Airplane! would end up creating glorified TBS kiddie-movies, I'd have said "Surely you must be kidding..."

To those who can respond appropriately to the above quote, you know how deeply depressed this movie made me.

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originally posted: 10/10/01 11:17:07
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User Comments

7/25/09 Jeff Wilder An okay screwball comedy. 3 stars
11/02/08 Samantha Pruitt pretty funny, all the great story lines are great! 4 stars
12/31/06 kitfo a waste of comic talent. you can see most of these jokes coming from a mile off. 2 stars
11/28/06 Dan Surprisingly entertaining. Better than 85% of the crap pumped out these days 4 stars
10/03/06 Jeremy Davies Great entertainment 4 stars
9/04/06 David Pollastrini John Cleese is great in this. 3 stars
8/26/06 Anastasia Beaverhausen Surprisingly funny here and there 4 stars
8/01/06 David Cohen A rip off of "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World" with 1/8 the humor 3 stars
5/26/06 Jeff Anderson Yes the Smashmouth finale was a cheap waste, but the rest was funny. Lovitz is a SCREAM! 4 stars
3/09/06 Dk Good comedy 3 stars
2/09/06 JM Synth "Hey, Look It's Smashmouth!". Nuff Said. Rest of film is crap as well 1 stars
12/30/05 chris f not bad 4 stars
9/12/05 Total Crap Hi-fucking-larious! But Smashmouth killed it at the end. GODDAMNIT! 2 stars
9/01/05 Dirk For those who like humor on the level of "smell my finger" this movie ROCKS 5 stars
8/31/05 ES some very funny scenes in an otherwise lazy movie 3 stars
7/10/05 DM Actually pretty funny (Rowan Atkinson is great.) 4 stars
6/29/05 darick Most of film= 4 stars, Ending (one of the worst I've ever seen)= 1 f****** star 3 stars
6/08/05 JD If you're bored and nothing else is on worth a look. 3 stars
2/19/05 clinger26 yes!!!!!! Ive been waiting for something like this 5 stars
1/25/05 Gray funny (hate Smashmouth though) 5 stars
9/22/04 Al Guy It had some laughs, but not the best I've seen. 4 stars
9/05/04 jmsynth Any film with a fucking Smashmouth concert as a grand finale cant be too good 2 stars
7/26/04 Katie I was laughing SO much watching this movie! 5 stars
6/20/04 Tim Airport radar and squirrel scene hilarious and few other funny bits but not fluent. 3 stars
6/01/04 Nobody Without Rown Atkinson, 4 stars. With Rowan Atkinson, 1 star 1 stars
4/09/04 Daveman The scenes with John Cleese in are hilarious, the rest of the film is wank. 2 stars
2/22/04 Ingo O what a piece of unnerving sh*t 2 stars
12/23/03 Littlepurch Brilliant! Y does it get such bad reviews. Reviewers don't have a clue!!! 5 stars
12/18/03 alien assassin not as funny as "It's a mad mad mad World" but still offers plenty of laughs 4 stars
10/30/03 Moparman Lots of funny moments in this movie!! 4 stars
10/19/03 Frank Andrew Thompson (FAT) If you have any sense of humour you'll like this movie! 4 stars
8/13/03 Double G funny 5 stars
8/07/03 Marc Ian Very funny ! (5 stars) :) 5 stars
6/24/03 Jack Sommersby A few laughs, but they're few and far between. Underwhelming cast, too. 2 stars
5/13/03 cinkcool funny 5 stars
4/18/03 Andrew Carden Occasionally Unfunny Airplane-Type Comedy...With Bad Ensemble and Bad Screenplay 2 stars
1/01/03 John Aster Habig great cast, good plot, mixed script 4 stars
10/20/02 St. Clair The only really funny part was the slo-mo escape scene with Seth Green & his bro. Hilarious 4 stars
10/07/02 Arsehole Man, if you have the ability to laugh at life... see this movie. You'll enjoy it. 5 stars
8/05/02 David Thorman I couldn't help but be fascinated by Rowan Atkinson's abysmal performance. 1 stars
6/19/02 Bada Bing Crosby 90% of it hilarious! Take the stick outta yer ass & LAUGH 5 stars
6/17/02 y0rt Good stuff 5 stars
6/06/02 The Bomb 69 No Airplane, but some truly funny parts in between some misses 3 stars
5/22/02 officer 412/l well,it's no airplane. but when it's funny,it's pretty damm hilarious. 4 stars
4/26/02 Jeff Lecky Anyone who enjoys this movie is an arsehole! 1 stars
4/25/02 lauren mccreight about as funny as "Dude, Where's My Car?".....i wish there was a rating below "Total Crap"! 1 stars
4/21/02 Dave MacDougall the best part about it was when it ended... 1 stars
4/20/02 stoolie-bird showed me a new level of boring..... 1 stars
3/31/02 NWO4LIFE Uneven, but fun farce. The was lacking, though. 4 stars
3/29/02 Mr. Hat (I'm Back!) Hilarious. 4 stars
2/18/02 Monday Morning Just sit back and enjoy it, you discarded douchebags. 4 stars
2/05/02 specialK worst film i've ever seen. i am still angry 1 stars
2/04/02 Glip Seriously, my parents laughed at this movie, if they found it funny, anyone will 5 stars
2/03/02 Spyguy2 So bad I couldn't turn away then found myself liking it until the end 'cus Smashmouth sux 3 stars
1/23/02 Sparky Polastri Hey get that stick outta your ASS! Boy if you hate this movie I pity you 5 stars
1/17/02 J. I didn't laugh ONCE throughout this drek. Mindless films suit their mindless audiences. 1 stars
1/16/02 David A. One Big Bore 1 stars
1/09/02 Michael This movie is hilarious! 5 stars
1/09/02 Jimbo Good slapstick stuff & funny....maybe a bit too long though 4 stars
1/05/02 Shane Robert Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Another kick ass movie by the kick ass people at Hollywood!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/30/01 sarafina This movie. Made me want to kill, rape and plunder the inhabitants of the neighborhood 1 stars
12/15/01 Ian Barr Funny. Nothing else, just funny. 4 stars
10/09/01 Joe Blowme Great stinking movie!! 5 stars
10/08/01 Destruction Worker I can do anything I want... I'm eccentric!! 5 stars
10/04/01 Bada Bing Crosby A riot; loved it! 5 stars
9/22/01 mjm103171 I laughed till i was prairiedoggin' 5 stars
9/20/01 Christina Good movie. 5 stars
9/15/01 CHU SENG POONG a very funny movie, would appeal to most guys 5 stars
9/09/01 Deanna Long Funny, fast paced, totally mindless. I learned the term Prairie Dogging, I'm grateful. 5 stars
9/05/01 Billy Bob Hilarious 5 stars
8/29/01 jedrek Good movie to rent on video or see with a bunch of people. 4 stars
8/29/01 Michael Flynn 2001's funniest movie. You won't find better jokes about Nazis and "I Love Lucy" this year. 5 stars
8/28/01 chuck This is one of the finest classic comedys I have seen in a long time 5 stars
8/28/01 Brek FKn Fuck this, i'm druknk 1 stars
8/28/01 spaceworm Best opening credit sequence of the year. Cop out ending. Good otherwise. 4 stars
8/22/01 The Boy In The Designer Bubble My emotionally slow cousin said this movie was stupid. I kid you not. 1 stars
8/22/01 Rampage sucked shit 1 stars
8/22/01 Bada Bing Crosby Laughed like hell..what the fuck were you people watching? 5 stars
8/21/01 King Jackass You are insane... this movie is fucking hilarious! 5 stars
8/21/01 TimmyJ Not funny at all 1 stars
8/20/01 Dan stinks 1 stars
8/20/01 Otis Nang Pretty funny - that Bean guy is very overrated 4 stars
8/19/01 the scarecrow I was just glad to see Rowan Atkinson as something besides Bean. 4 stars
8/18/01 bnb nbn 5 stars
8/16/01 Brek FKn Another hollywood landfill full of shit, dirty needles and toasters. 1 stars
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  17-Aug-2001 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Jerry Zucker

Written by
  Andy Breckman

  Breckin Meyer
  Amy Smart
  Whoopi Goldberg
  Seth Green
  Jon Lovitz
  John Cleese
  Cuba Gooding Jr.

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