Rat Race (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner01/11/2002

Two out of five stars
Running time: 112 mins

Fairly watchable old-fashioned comedy caper, though with the emphasis more on the caper than the comedy. If you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen all the best bits. Both of them.

Rat Race is a throwback to old-fashioned 1960s ensemble comedy capers such as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. It’s directed by Jerry Zucker, who made the classic Airplane! and the Naked Gun movies, but who also hasn’t made a movie in six years and though the cast are generally good, the laughs are very thin on the ground.

John Cleese plays Donald Sinclair, a Las Vegas casino-owning eccentric millionaire with a penchant for gambling on bizarre things with a group of millionaire friends.

He unites six different groups of people by placing a special gold token in the slot machines (ensuring that only "low rollers" get selected), then informs them that there is 2 million dollars in a locker 700 miles away and that the first one there scoops the lot.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the participants, Sinclair and his friends are placing wild bets on who’ll get there first.

The contestants include: Seth Green and Vince Vieluf as a couple of inept con-men; Cuba Gooding Jnr as a disgraced football referee; Rowan Atkinson as a narcoleptic Italian holiday-maker; Jon Lovitz as a greedy, put-upon family man; Whoopi Goldberg and Lanai Chapman as a recently-reunited mother and daughter; and Breckin Mayer (from Road Trip) as a strait-laced lawyer ditching a raucous stag do.

Along the way, Atkinson picks up Wayne Knight’s over-excited ambulance driver and Mayer hooks up with Amy Smart’s slightly deranged helicopter pilot (Smart was, coincidentally, Mayer’s co-star in Road Trip).

Unfortunately, Rat Race is one of those films where if you’ve seen the trailer then you’ve already seen the best gags, and even they aren’t especially funny. (A cow hanging from a hot air balloon anyone? Rowan Atkinson’s wacky Signor Bean-style rubber-faced antics? A busload of Lucille Ball impersonators? No, wait! Come back! Etc.)

Let’s face it, you’re on pretty thin ice, comedy-wise, when your main set-piece gags include the afore-mentioned cow or someone accidentally appearing as Adolph Hitler at a veteran’s rally.

That’s not to say it’s entirely laugh-free. Zucker has always been good at ‘throwaway gags’ and almost every scene involving Cleese’s gambling-mad friends is amusing (e.g. betting which chambermaid will fall from a curtain-rail first), although even these scenes have had their comedic impact stolen by TV’s Banzai.

Ultimately, then, though the cast try hard, this just doesn’t have enough laughs to make it as a decent comedy – it’s watchable, but instantly forgettable and a bit disappointing. And someone really ought to tell Rowan Atkinson that he hasn’t been funny since Blackadder

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Content updated: 15/12/2017 17:53

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