Resurfaced: Rat Race (2001)

In this series of articles, I’ll be posting reviews that have recently resurfaced. A number of the reviews I wrote in the past I thought had been lost to time, but after coming to a realization that they might still exist on the Wayback Machine, I was able to relocate many of them. I believe there are still some that are lost and they may be lost in perpetuity, but I will periodically search for that data or re-write those reviews that I have never found or which I never wrote to begin with.

For now, this series will be extensive with over 300 regular (400+ words), short (400- words), and quickie (1 to 2 paragraphs) reviews. I will attempt to combine them as best as I can. Reviews written in early 1998 or earlier, no date of creation exists. I will post the original writing date where known, otherwise the date will be listed as “unknown.” These reviews were written between the date of my site’s founding in 1996 through much of 2002. It was only after this period that I settled on the standard format and length of reviews as well as posting each one to its own individual page, which is why the old data was ultimately lost.

All but the review content has been replaced to match my current formatting guidelines, which are a bit more thorough than they might have been in those early days. Please note that I am attempting to retain as much of the original editing integrity as possible, so spelling and/or grammar errors may still be present. This may also mean that some factual data is not there as IMDb was not as ubiquitous as it is now. So, let’s get on to today’s review.

Rat Race

Rat Race

Rating

Director

Jerry Zucker

Screenplay

Andy Breckman

Length

1h 52m

Starring

John Cleese, Breckin Meyer, Amy Smart, Cuba Gooding Jr., Seth Green, Vince Vieluf, Lanei Chapman, Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Lovitz, Kathy Najimy, Brody Smith, Jillian Marie Hubert, Rowan Atkinson, Dave Thomas, Wayne Knight, Silas Weir Mitchell, Paul Rodriguez, Dean Cain, Brandy Ledford, , Colleen Camp, Deborah Theaker, Charlotte Zucker, Rance Howard, Gloria Allred, Smash Mouth, Kathy Bates, Manoj Sood, Guy Cohen

MPAA Rating

PG-13

Buy/Rent Movie

Soundtrack

Poster

Review

A multi-state race between six individuals and groups to win a million dollars turns into a hilarious farce that revives the comedy chase movies of the 1970s.

John Cleese is Donald P. Sinclair, a rich Las Vegas casino owner who devises a moneymaking race that pits six lucky contestants against one another to make it to Arizona where a stash of one million dollars has been placed. Secretly he’s using the contestants for his own personal betting parlor between rich and famous gamblers from around the world.

The contestants are Owen Templeton (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a football referee whose great claim to fame is miscalling a coin toss at a championship game; Randy Pear (Jon Lovitz), a simple husband and father who drags his wife Bev (Kathy Najimy) and kids along, but doesn’t tell them why; Enrico Pollini (Rowan Atkinson), a narcoleptic Italian; Duane (Seth Green) and Blaine Cody (Vince Vieluf), con artist brothers, who try to bilk money out of Vegas hotels; Nick Schaffer (Breckin Meyer), a successful businessman who can’t win in gambling; and Vera Baker (Whoopi Goldberg) and her daughter Merrill (Lanai Chapman), who are meeting for the first time since Vera gave Merrill up for adoption.

Each group goes through several humorous ordeals before coming to a surprising and enjoyable conclusion. Among the more funny moments are Kathy Bates as a psychotic roadside squirrel seller who, when Vera and Merrill refuse to buy a squirrel, she gives them incorrect directions and end up plummeting down a cliff where they pass several accusatory signs. Another includes the Pear family visiting a Barbie museum and making its operators quite angry.

Classic comedy director Jerry Zucker, responsible for such classic comedies as “Airplane” and “Ghost,” crafts a magnificent comedic chase film in the veins of some hilarious ’70s blockbusters. “Cannonball Run” was probably the epitome of the all-star comic competition films with others like “Scavenger Hunt” adding to the rich diversity. It has been a very long time since a comedy came along that was as entertaining and fun as this one.

The comedy-renowned cast is virtually flawless, able to catch every comic beat and capitalizing on every potential gag. No single performance stands out above the others, the perfect example of an ensemble. Perhaps not as serious or quirky as a Robert Altman ensemble, “Rat Race” is a treasure to watch.

Even the guest appearances in the film give it some added power. Bates as the squirrel lady is hilarious, Wayne Knight as an inept ambulance driver attempting to get a transplant heart to a hospital in Arizona is amusing and Dave Thomas as Sinclair’s deceptive assistant and guinea pig steals the show. Each of them adds significant elements that make the film even more enjoyable to watch.

The screenplay is certainly adept in keeping the spirit of the chase going. Even when it looks to be about over, it keeps going. The movie psyches its audience out easily and tricks them into falling for predictable conclusions then twisting the result beyond recognition.

“Rat Race” is a return to a type of comedy that has long been absent and strangely missed for the past twenty years. It is a magnificent effort that keeps its audiences laughing from beginning to end. It is a film that everyone can enjoy.

Review Written

April 30, 2002

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