Rat Race

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Movie Reviews by Toby White and Dr Kuma

Starring: Breckin Meyer, Amy Smart, Whoopi Goldberg, Seth Green, Cuba Gooding Jr

Director: Jerry Zucker

Movie Review by Toby White

Ah, how we’ve missed the zany humour of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker trio. Historically, their formula of lampoonish non-sequiturs, puerile visual puns and celebrity cameos playing against type has been a bit hit (AIRPLANE!; HOTSHOTS) and miss (NAKED GUN 33 1/3: THE FINAL INSULT) but this is a fantastic return to form.

John Cleese plays Donald Sinclair, an eccentric Las Vegas Casino owner with a compulsion for gambling, who plucks a group of random people from his casino floor and gives them all a key to a locker in New Mexico that contains $2 million. First one there wins the bounty and the only rule to the ‘race’ is that there are no rules. Meanwhile, he and his cronies then take bets as to who the victor may be. Bearing more than passing similarity to IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (the star-studded 1963 classic) RAT RACE is no less littered with great cameos. Featuring in this motley crew are great turns from Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jnr and Jon Lovitz. There’s also Rowan Atkinson as a narcoleptic Italian ‘Mr Bean’.

What makes RAT RACE such great fun is the aforementioned formula. The classic moments are too prolific to mention individually but, suffice to say, that the comedy works (if you like this type of thing) because layer on layer is gradually added to a gag that then produces a punchline just left of predictable. It’s like seeing what’s on the dessert menu but not being allowed it until you’ve finished your greens…and the greens are actually quite palatable – excuse the ridiculous analogy! Even if this isn’t your thing, just go and see it for the moment where Lovitz and family end up crashing into a WW2 Veterans gathering driving Hitler’s state car…or the bit where Gooding Jnr drives a coach of “I Love Lucy” impersonators halfway across the Arizona desert…or the sequence in which Amy Smart attacks her cheating boyfriend in a helicopter…no, better still, the moment when – oh, you get what I mean, just go see the film.

5 out of 6 stars

Movie Review by Dr Kuma

What can I possibly say about this film that won’t take too long?

A few lines are probably more than it deserves.

A Las Vegas casino magnate, determined to find a new avenue for wagering, sets up a race for money. There. That’s it. Enough already! This movie makes the CANNONBALL RUN look like CITIZEN CANE.

What several Oscar nominees are doing putting their names to this (Cuba Gooding Junior and Whooping Goldberg to name two too many) are wasted. Goldberg phones in her performance, which meant she probably saw some rushes. Rowan Atkinson – great on TV but crap on the big screen – is really, really annoying and Seth Green doesn’t seem to know what’s going on. The only two that come out of this with any sympathy are the always-excellent John Lovitz, whose family do raise the odd smile and John Cleese. Mr Cleese would have thought that he was going to be in a very funny movie as his scenes with the gamblers are really good. He must have been appalled if he ever saw the final cut. Normally these scenes would carry a bad picture, unfortunately, this race is far too long and there are no winners, only losers, especially those who pay to see it.

I’m really surprised that Jerry Zucker, who made some of the funniest films of the late 20 th century along with his kin (AIRPLANE! and POLICE SQUAD! films and the fantastically underrated TOP SECRET, with a funny, yes funny, Val Kilmer) did not use the Alan Smithee rule of the pseudonym. I was going to say ghost writer but that would again only highlight how far he seems to have fallen with this tosh.

Am I really being too harsh on this film?


If I ever get the chance to look back on my life, I’ll ask to get the 112 minutes I wasted watching this film back or ask to watch one of Zucker’s funny movies in its place. You know, when you can cry with laughter? I cried at the lack of it. That and the fact I hadn’t chosen an aisle seat to make good my escape.

Dr Kuma’s verdict: Avoid the stalls, it’s the pits.

1 out of 6 stars