The opening credits for RAT RACE perfectly serve their purpose of putting
the audience into a suitably silly mood. Each of the movie's long list of
stars appears with his or her real head attached to a cartoon figure body
that waddles by the titles like a drunk duck.
Working from a wonderfully wacky script by Andy Breckman (SGT. BILKO),
director Jerry Zucker (AIRPLANE!) throws in everything but the kitchen sink
-- or maybe the sink was there -- in order to make us laugh, and the miracle
is that most of it works. Frequently the film falls back on old slapstick
gags, but, more often than not, the jokes manage to be funny even you've
seen similar moments before. The movie is a delightful throwback to old
screwball comedies. There's some funny bathroom humor in the movie, but the
majority of the jokes are so clean that they could be in G-rated comedy.
(The movie is PG-13.)
The setup is that billionaire hotel owner Donald Sinclair offers six
randomly chosen guests in his Las Vegas hotel something with great odds --
one in six to be precise. Each is given a key to a locker in New Mexico in
which he has placed two million dollars. The game is incredibly simple.
The first one there gets the cash. Sinclair has a bunch of super wealthy
gamblers on hand who have placed bets on who will get to the money first.
It is "the gambling experience of a lifetime," Sinclair explains. The
inspired script has the participants initially not participating. They
can't believe it, so nobody moves. It seems as if the race will be a bust
without even getting started.
John Cleese, in a small but essential part, hams it up as Sinclair. The
film's best subplot has the bored gamblers wagering on a series of crazy
things in order to kill the time as they wait for the big race to finish.
ROAD TRIP's Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart play Nick Shaffer and Tracy Faucet.
Nick is a lawyer who has never gambled on anything in his life, and Tracy is
a daredevil helicopter pilot with whom he hitches a ride.
In the most underutilized pairing, Whoopi Goldberg and Lanei Chapman play a
mother and daughter who are going for the gold. The mother is kind of
cautious, and the daughter is just the opposite.
Seth Green plays Duane Cody, a guy who is ready to utilize the game's one
rule -- "There are no rules." -- to its maximum advantage. His goofy
brother, Blaine (Vince Vieluf), has a speech impediment and an infected
tongue caused by the piece of jewelry he used in a "do-it-yourself" tongue
Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a widely loathed football referee who recently became
infamous for a bad call on the coin toss. The ref probably needs the money
since he may never be able to show his face again on the gridiron.
Jon Lovitz plays a plump man with any equally pudgy family, whom he is
willing to put through any amount of grief on the way to capturing the loot.
Kathy Najimy, Brody Smith and Jillian Marie play the other family members.
Only Rowan Atkinson, who acts like Mr. Bean channeling Roberto Benigni, is
uniformly disappointing. His annoying character, who suffers from
narcolepsy, is a klutz. One scene involving a heart could have been
Among several nice small parts, the best has Kathy Bates playing a crazy
woman known only as "Squirrel Lady."
The fast paced film has lots of hilarious incidents, large and small, but to
mention even their setup would diminish their impact. To be fair the film
does run out of gas every now and then, but it just keeps plugging away,
happy to run on fumes. "Who Let The Dogs Out" and many other well known
songs are used to maximum effect in the film.
As our contestants approach the finish line, every member of the audience
will probably have their mental money on one of the teams and their hopes
riding on another. The ending is something of a disappointment, but at
least it is a surprise.
RAT RACE runs 1:50. It is rated PG-13 for "sexual references, crude humor,
partial nudity and language" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and
My son Jeffrey, age 12, thought the film was hilarious and gave it *** 1/2.
He thought the acting was good, the story was imaginative and the ending was
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes