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Rat Race

Wacky fun with an all-star cast

From the moment one of the many characters in the movie Rat Race gleefully cries, "Oh good! A scam!" you know you're in for a ride. Out of the days of yore when the outrageous, physical humor of Airplane, Naked Gun, and Monty Python's The Holy Grail were seen in first-run theaters instead of as filler on Comedy Central, comes this hilarious farce about how far the not-so-average person would go for 2 Million dollars.

Exactly how far would they go? To Silver City, New Mexico. A group of people picked at random, including a friendly mother and her long lost daughter, a family of four, two petty crooks, an Italian weirdo, an unpopular referee and a goody-goody, are all transformed into money-mongers desperately racing for a wad of cashola while being unknowingly betted on like human race horses by some hardcore gambling addicts.

The movie features a stellar ensemble cast consisting of: the bizarre English phenomenon Rowan 'Mr. Bean' Atkinson as Mr. Pollini; Cuba Gooding Jr. (who goes back to his "Show me the money roots!") as Owen Templeton, a football ref who's made a bad call; Whoopi Goldberg (sporting a bad hair do) as a mom dealing with her tense Type-A corporate exec daughter; the enigmatic ex-Buffyite Seth Green as a scumbag con-artist named Duane Cody and his goofy brother Blaine Cody (Vince Vieluf); Jon Lovitz as Randy Pear, a pro-Jewish dad with a penchant for gambling, and his wife Beverly (Kathy Najimy); and John Cleese as Donald Sinclair (showing off white molars la Matt Dillon in Something about Mary) a sleazy casino owner who organizes the race for his elite, high-rolling clients.

Although every character has issues, drama, and emotional baggage, none of this is really analyzed. Rat Race is a comedy that makes no effort to be anything else (except for the end where it seems to have a bizarre change of heart). The humor is cartoonish and exaggerated--this is no dry-witted classy PBS special--but, damn, is it funny. In almost every scene there's some kind of gag or schtick being pulled off.

Director Jerry Zucker knows just when to turn up the comic tension and pulls the laughs right out of you. There's the usual animal humor, in which one particular cow is highly abused, but not a lot of bawdy, sexual antics (like you would see in second class-fare such as The Nutty Professor or Hot Shots). One of the funniest scenes takes place at a monster truck rally where the Cody brothers find themselves trapped. The climax of the shot is done in slo-mo and you almost feel the growing hysteria of the characters as they try to flee the onslaught of a monster truck. When I screened the movie, 90% of the audience was laughing during this moment. Other noteworthy scenes include: a car hanging off an airport radar; the Pears' daughter peeing out of the car window; a mysterious Barbie Museum off of the highway; and a bus full of "I Love Lucy" devotees driven by Mr. Templeton. Newman from Seinfeld (Wayne Knight) is an ambulance driver who joins in on the fun along with other guest appearances from the likes of Kathy Bates, Dean Cain and Paul Rodriguez. Rat Race isn't as crowded as a Robert Altman film, however. Your eyes have room to roam and you have time to breathe.

In the season of road-trips, this movie is the perfect supplement. It proves two points: that getting there is half the fun, and that Nevada and New Mexico are two of the craziest places on earth.


Rat Race
rated PG-13
2 hours 5 minutes

Whoopi Goldberg
John Cleese
Cuba Gooding Jr
Rowan Atkinson
Jon Lovitz