Rat Race (2001)
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Review Date: August 12, 2001
Director: Jerry Zucker
Writer: Andrew Breckman
Producers: Jerry and Janet Zucker, Sean Daniel
Cuba Gooding Jr. as Owen Templeton
Seth Green as Duane Cody
John Lovitz as Randy Pear
An eccentric billionaire places $2 million inside a locker in New Mexico, assembles a bunch of losers in Las Vegas and tells them that whoever reaches the locker first, can keep all of the money. And they're off to the races!
A very cool premise, some half-decent gags here and there, a few major stunt pieces and a fun score just aren't enough to recommend this movie all the way. Why? Well, I just didn't think that most of this film was funny, that's why. The basic idea is a good one, gather a bunch of people and ask them to reach the same point in order to win $2 million. Check. But once everyone hits the road, it's basically just a bunch of sketches, each involving one of the characters or another, getting into outrageous situations (most of which are extremely farfetched if you really start thinking about them-a Nazi museum in the middle of the desert?) in order to stir up laughs. Unfortunately for me, I just didn't think that most of it was all that funny (but being as humor is very subjective, who knows...maybe you will enjoy the laughs). In fact, I spent the first half of this movie looking at my watch, other than the scenes with Cuba Gooding Jr. (who's very funny here), and only started "getting into" it during the film's second half.

It's basically a matter of the characters being humorous or not, and most just weren't for me. Rowan Atkinson for example, was abysmally unfunny to me as the "Italian" tourist, but many in the audience were cracking up at every facial gesture that he made. Not me! (and don't get me started on that inane bit with Wayne Knight and the human heart...yeesh!). Whoopie Goldberg and her daughter in the film were also not funny, and the whole ongoing joke about Seth Green's brother not being able to speak, was also not a part of my humor list. Cuba Gooding Jr., on the other hand, did make me laugh, as did some of the Hitler jokes from Lovitz's camp (although some will be offended, no doubt), and I really liked how all of the rich guys were betting on pretty much anything under the sun (the "maid bets" were the absolute tops). I also liked the whole bus full of Lucy Balls...brrrr, creepy and funny at the same time. But then you had a bunch of time-filling stunt pieces that just weren't amusing in the least. Like the whole helicopter thang and the scene featuring Seth Green's car being pulled upwards by a radar.

And the reason that I'm talking about the characters and the scenes specifically in my review is because that's basically all that this movie is about. You either like the characters and think that most of what they're doing is funny, or you don't. It's not a plot-driven film and it certainly doesn't ask that you invest anything into the characters (i.e leave your brain at the door). It's mindless (but it doesn't pretend to be anything otherwise) with some laughs and a horrible ending. I mean, what the hell is going on with the band Smashmouth and movies this summer?!? This feels like the umpteenth film to which they've sold their "hit" single "All-Star". Enough already! Anyway, you just gotta see the goofy ending to believe it, easily one of the most contrived things that I've seen in some time. Check it out on video, only because of the cool premise and some of the gags clicking, but otherwise, stick to the "Whoopie Goldberg" rule of movies, and stay away from this one in the theaters (for those uninitiated to the guideline: "If Whoopie's in a film, stay away!"). I think it would also have been much greater if they had used A to B list actors and made the chase cross-country, as opposed to the B to C list actors assembled here, and the state-to-state race. Oh's August, folks, and studios aren't exactly known to reserve this month for the greatest pictures in their annual portfolio, so lower your expectations and you might just laugh along.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian
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