Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
If "Rat Race" were as consistently funny as its best sequences, it would be among the brightest offerings of the lackluster summer of 2001. Unexpected laughter occurs when you least expect it to, from the interplay between Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart, of all people, from a talented newcomer named Lanai Chapman who deftly steals scene after scene from Whoopi Goldberg, from Jon Lovitz, who's somehow not quite so obnoxious when he's teamed with Kathy Najimy, and from Cuba Gooding, Jr., who's stuck driving a bus full of Lucille Ball impersonators to a convention. All these characters and more are stuck in the "Rat Race" dreamed up by casino owner John Cleese (doing a Terry-Thomas imitation for reasons best known to director Jerry Zucker}. The bait is $2m. in a safe in Silver City, New Mexico which belongs to the first rat to grab it. If you've seen "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," you know what to expect: a movie with a long middle and no real beginning or end. So either you think the race is funny or you don't.
Some of the characters are indeed side-splitting. But a joke about a guy with a speech impediment brought on by an infected tongue stud goes on forever and if you thought a little Roberto Benigni went a long way at the Oscar ceremony a few years back, wait till you see Rowan Atkinson imitating Benigni for a whole movie. And Seth Green gave up playing Oz on "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" to play second fiddle to "Austin Powers," "Josie & The Pussycats" and a sidekick with the aforementioned infected tongue stud? "Rat Race" begins with animated photographs of the cast and much of what follows feels like live action channeling of 1940's cartoons. But the mushy conclusion ends the movie with a nauseating thud: we sit through nearly two hours of shenanigans and never even get to see Ethel Merman OR ANYONE fall flat on her fanny? Okay, okay, so Ethel Merman isn't with us anymore, but animator Tex Avery knew better than to wrap his sly cartoons with schmaltz and in his glorious "Airplane" days, Jerry Zucker did, too.
© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 8/15/01
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