"Rat Race" revives a genre Hollywood has neglected since the sixties: the big event, ensemble chase comedy. Who better to breathe life into the subject than Jerry Zucker, the mastermind behind the "Naked Gun" films, and "Airplane," two of the most hilarious movies I have seen. After years of directing straight dramas, Zucker says he is thrilled to be back doing comedy. "It's very visual and there are lots of big visual stunts," Zucker explains in the film's production notes, "kind of a James Bond comedy in a way because there are so many sight gags."
Good comparison-"Race Race" is indeed a visual comedy. Its laugh-a-minute attitude works for the creative situations. The audience does not necessarily laugh at every single joke the movie throws, but the humor is timed well. "Rat Race" also contains a terrific cast and provides enough laughs to be worthy of at least one viewing.
John Cleese stars as the eccentric Las Vegas casino tycoon named Donald Sinclair. He wants to keep his wealthy, high stakes gamblers interested in his gambling techniques so he arranges a new, quasi-legal sporting event for them to bet on: a human rat race.
Sinclair randomly places six golden coins in several different slot machines. The customer service sends the winners to a large banquet room where the characters learn of a two million dollar jackpot resting in a duffel bag, inside a locker, within the city of Silver City, New Mexico-seven hundred miles away. The fist one there keeps all of the money, tax-free. " the odds of winning are one and six " explains Sinclair. "There's only one rule: there are no rules!" The players include a vast variety of different characters. There is Vera Baker (Whoopi Goldberg), who, after giving her child up for adoption as a baby, has decided to meet her daughter, Merrill (Lanai Chapman). Owen Temleton (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), an NFL coach who recently blew an important game, has come to the sin city to forget his horrendous mistake. Mr. Pollini (Rowan Akinson from "Bean") is an exuberantly cheerful, but narcoleptic, Italian fellow. Randy Pear (Jon Lovitz), and his family is vacationing when he slips off to play slots and wins the chance of a lifetime. The Cody brothers (Seth Green and Vince Vieluf), are first to cause trouble in any crowd. Finally, Nick (Breckin Meyer) a skeptical young lawyer-in-training, meets a charming young woman (Amy Smart), and encounters plenty of adventures with her.
"Rat Race" offers plenty of hit and miss humor. Much of it misses, but much of it hits the mark as well. The majority of the humor is physical and exaggerated. Very little offers sharp, witty satire on any part of culture. The film says something about greed in a zany sort of way, but for the most part this is just a two hour laugh riot, nothing more, nothing less.
However, this is a tricky script to write, and for the overall result to provide this much effective comic material, Andrew Breckman's ingenious script is indeed successful. It's not easy writing a comedy like this, and Breckman does indeed run into a few problems in the overcrowded plot. Even more difficult is creating a conclusion for a story like this. No matter how you end it, you are certain to displease at least some audience members. Breckman has found a way to have his cake and eat it too. I would never dream of revealing how this race concludes itself, but I will say it is not exceedingly satisfying, but sure does work over the obvious other possibilities.
"Rat Race" is one of the funniest movies of the year. It's energetic, irrelevant, and entertaining. You are sure to have a decent time.