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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
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Andrew Howe

"Great title song, shame about the rest"
3 stars

It’s been more years than I care to remember, but I’m forced to admit that there was a time when I thrilled to the exploits of Burt Reynolds and his merry band in The Cannonball Run. Some years before that I derived a disturbing amount of enjoyment from It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, a ridiculously bloated comedy that laid the groundwork for the inevitable imitators. It’s a simple formula - assemble a cast of well-known actors, hand them a script that deals with a race across the country for a cash reward, and let Murphy’s Law have the last laugh. The format appears to have fallen out of favour in recent times, but Rat Race hauls the decomposing carcass into the limelight for one last reunion gig, and the surprise is that it’s considerably more palatable than its pedigree promises.

After a bizarre credits sequence backed by the toe-tapping title song, we are introduced to the greed-fuelled crew with whom we’ll be spending the next couple of hours. The role call is answered by a sweet-tempered middle aged woman and her estranged daughter (Whoopi Goldberg and Lanai Chapman), a family man addicted to the illusion of easy money (Jon Lovitz), a disgraced football umpire hiding out from disgruntled fans (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), a pair of teenage dirtbags who specialise in fraudulent accident claims (Seth Green and Vince Vieluf), a narcoleptic Italian who appears to have been born without a brain (Rowan Atkinson), and an upstanding young lawyer who hooks up with a psychotically jealous helicopter pilot (Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart). If it seems like there’s not enough actors vying for your attention, don’t get too concerned - you’ll also be watching John Cleese strut his stuff as the casino owner who underwrites the race, with the likes of Dave Thomas and Wayne Knight (Newman from Seinfeld) thrown in for good measure.

A glance at the list of participants proves that the scriptwriter (Andy Breckman) had some idea of what he was doing – if Wacky Races taught us anything (besides the value of a good laugh), it’s that part of the fun comes from picking a favourite and cheering them to victory. You need a character for every possible demographic, and Breckman’s got most of the bases covered, but the trade-off is that the available screen time has to be evenly allocated amongst the cast of thousands. His solution is to paint the characters with broad brushstrokes, trusting in the actors to invest them with the required personality.

They certainly give it everything they’ve got, and the fact that we’re not dealing with the A-list means that we don’t have to worry about anyone’s ego undermining the proceedings. Lovitz has a fine time with a character that’s custom made for his talents, Goldberg wears the role of a ditzy but good-natured dame like a comfortable pair of sneakers, Meyer is a surprise stand-out as the only character who isn’t inherently self-serving, and the rest of the cast take whatever the script can throw at them in their stride. The only weak link is Atkinson – he’s lumbered with an exaggerated Italian stereotype that might have been amusing if we were still living in the 1960’s, and the result is an embarrassing performance that represents a criminal waste of talent.

The script operates on the assumption that everyone will attempt to shaft their fellow man if there’s cash on the line, but since it’s a lightweight comedy it’s not worth getting too concerned about this rampant generalisation. The philosophy works against gaining any kind of investment in the outcome (few of the characters are particularly likeable), but it makes a certain kind of sense when viewed in the context of the resolution.

The narrative is necessarily episodic in nature, cutting between the pitfalls experienced by the participants with monotonous regularity, and this is where the film unravels. The humour relies on uninspired physical comedy and contrived set pieces to get the laughs, and unless you’re a fan of base-level farce it’ll be hard-pressed to raise a smile. However, amidst the dreck there’s the odd moment of brilliance - Cleese gets to deliver one of his greatest comic monologues since the halcyon days of Monty Python, Dave Thomas steals the show whenever he appears onscreen, and Lovitz’s spur of the moment excursion to the “Barbie Museum” is worth the price of admission alone. If these scenes had been used as a model for the entire script we’d have had a laugh riot on our hands, but instead we’re left with a test of patience that throws enough inspiration into the mix to keep you from heading for the exit.

It’s difficult to assemble a cast of this calibre and wind up with an abject failure on your hands, and certain scenes deliver the laughs you paid good money to receive. There simply aren’t enough worthwhile ideas to sustain a two hour film, but it’s a good-natured affair that almost justifies the genre’s unexpected resurrection.

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originally posted: 12/13/01 18:56:40
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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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