Rat Race - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Rat Race Reviews

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Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
½ August 4, 2014
It's often the case that the individual members of a creative team cannot match the success or acclaim of their collective outputs when it comes to their solo work. While John Cleese has enjoyed the success of Fawlty Towers and Terry Gilliam has made some of the most imaginative films of the last 40 years, virtually nothing the individual Pythons have achieved has managed to surpass their work together, at least not within the minds of their paying public.

The stock of the team once known as Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker has fallen some way since the halcyon days of Airplane! and the Naked Gun series. While David Zucker and Jim Abrahams have busied themselves with the Scary Movie series and the awful An American Carol, Jerry Zucker has been relatively quiet. Rat Race is the last film that he has directed to date, and while it's hardly terrible, it isn't up to the standards that he once set for himself.

If nothing else is true about it, Rat Race is of interest from an historical point of view. Along with the more respectable Love, Actually, it marks the return of the epic, 'guest list' ensemble comedy. The film takes a great deal of inspiration from the likes of The Great Race, Scavanger Hunt and It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, sharing both the general, chase movie premise and the conceit of having so many big stars together.

The 'guest list' film has always been an expansive gamble, even in a Hollywood which regularly stakes $250m on a single weekend. The high budgets of these films were often a sting in the tail to the popularity that they enjoyed: despite being a huge hit, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World only made a profit of $1.25m. But the success of Rat Race and Love, Actually has ensured that such films are still being made, with the likes of Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve and What To Expect When You're Expecting (though their status as comedies can be easily disputed).

Like many of its predecessors, the film's central premise is very simple: there is a bag of money at a certain location, and whoever gets there first gets the lot. From there the quality of a film as a whole, or any given scene therein, is dependent on the skill or appeal of the actors that it features. Zucker's job, such as it is, is to harness that energy into something resembling a plot and keep us interested.

For the most part, Rat Race is a very loud and shambolic affair. It attempts to follow the formula that Zucker helped to pioneer, with rapid-fire jokes and lots of physical gags to leave the audience too breathless to poke holes in the plot. But because the film is aiming for more of a family audience (gaining a 12 certificate in the UK), it lacks the edge or bite of Zucker's previous productions, notwithstanding any decline in the standard of the remaining jokes.

Much like We're The Millers, there is something uncomfortably mean-spirited about Rat Race which is not present in earlier offerings from the same genre. It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World had its moments in which characters suffered great misfortune or were made fun of, but all these things were done in the context of a wider purpose. However ramshackle the film may be, in any of its versions, there is a satirical element to it about greed and its futility which gets carried all the way through.

Rat Race, by contrast, attempts to have its cake and eat it, being really mean towards its characters throughout and then trying to soften the blow during the big climax. Many of its characterisations have an exploitative quality to them, such as Seth Green's brother who cannot speak properly due to all his piercings. While the film eventually digs a little deeper and shows that it has something approaching a heart, for most of its running time it's content to laugh at the people we are following rather than encouraging us to laugh with them in their wacky circumstances.

Much of the physical comedy in Rat Race is closer to Jackass than anything that Zucker attempted in his prime. The mishaps involving the two brothers, the jeep and the monster trucks are only a hop, skip and jump from the style associated with Johnny Knoxville and his MTV associates. It's understandable, given that Zucker has access to more money and better effects than he enjoyed on Airplane!. But in having this big box of toys, he misses out on his chance to poke fun at the genre, using creakier effects to expose its limitations.

There are sections of Rat Race which are funny, at least intermittently. John Cleese's gleefully hammy Donald Sinclair is pretty entertaining throughout; though he's clearly not trying very hard, it is a part for which he is naturally suited. Likewise Rowan Atkinson's comic timing remains intact; again, it's not much of a stretch, but his character lacks any of the unintentional creepiness present in Mr. Bean's Holiday.

Other performers who are not as naturally gifted do not fare quite so well. Whoopi Goldberg, who won an Oscar with Zucker on Ghost, is a little underused, while Lanai Chapman is too uptight and screechy to be likeable as her estranged daughter. John Lovitz looks as disinterested here as he does in Southland Tales, though in this case he does seem to have a good idea of what is going on and what it all means. Others, like Seth Green and Wayne Knight, are just phoning it in, with the latter doing a very similar routine to his appearance in Jurassic Park eight years before.

Individual set-pieces do come off, particularly the squirrel joke involving Goldberg and Cathy Bates. But often the film undercuts itself in this regard, having to constantly make the situations more and more ridiculous in a bid to keep us interested. After the squirrel gag, the sensible thing would have been to cut to something calmer and then return a few minutes later. Instead, we practically wander straight into the scene with the rocket car, as if nothing had happened.

While some set-pieces work well, others are genuinely grating. Among the most grating is the long section involving Cuba Gooding Jr. and a bus fall of Lucille Ball impersonators. Firstly, there is the depression of seeing Gooding in a film like this only four years after his Oscar win for Jerry Maguire. Then there is the fact that few of the film's target audience will understand the joke - Lucille Ball is hardly the height of comedy fashion. This marriage of depression and outdated references leaves a vacuum where the laughs should be, slowing the whole film down.

You go through most of Rat Race laughing sporadically while occasionally glancing at your watch - and then we come to the ending. The ending, involving a charity concert helmed by Smash Mouth (them off the Shrek soundtrack), is a real heart-over-head experience. Every rational part of you is screaming at how insultingly cheap the film is being, attempting to send us out on a feel-good, schmaltzy note so that we forget the tedious bits that have gone before. But somehow, in spite of ourselves, we go with it and it manages to register emotionally on some level.

Rat Race is a comedy that partially succeeds and which is often enjoyed in spite of ourselves. Its satirical credentials are non-existent compared to It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and it fails to fire consistently even when going for the simplest of laughs. But even with all its mean-spirited touches, it's still a relatively innocuous way to wile away 90-odd minutes. If nothing else, it's funnier than all the Scary Movies put together.
Super Reviewer
½ September 4, 2007
I love this movie and i always have!
It has a star studded cast and maybe not the most complicated or even much to the storyline, but still very much enjoyable!
Its funny, really funny with some really funny characters that you cant help but fall in love with!
Some of the best comedic scenes i have to say were from Jon Lovitz and his family they were great!
Funny and worth the watch!
Super Reviewer
April 12, 2012
Rat Race is a good enough that has enough effective comedic moments to make this a film worth watching. For a remake, this film wasn't too bad, but it wasn't great either. The film has good comedy and a good cast to support the film. The film is very funny, but could have been better as well. The jokes are good, but don't hold up after multiple viewings. Watching this film again, I didn't think it was as funny as the first time I saw it, however it still is good fun and funny, but this is the type of which the jokes lose their vigor. They're still good, but lack at times. If you're looking for an entertaining, fun comedy, this is one worth watching. There's plenty to enjoy, and with a cast like this, they make an ordinary film pretty memorable. The film is enjoyable for what it is, and it has a lot of funny moments here and there. The most memorable performances are Seth Green and Jon Lovitz. Those two actors stole the show. Rat Race is lots of fun from start to finish. There's lots to enjoy about this and if you want a mindless comedic romp, then this is a great film to watch. I very much enjoyed the film, and thought for the most part it was a wonderfully funny comedy with minor flaws. For a remake, this is a pretty good one, better than most and is worth your time. Not a comedy classic by all means, this film still has enough good elements to create an effective film that is entertaining.
Directors Cat
Super Reviewer
December 9, 2011
I think because Jerry Zucker's other films Airpane and The Naked Gun didn't really have any genuinely good actors and just got straight to the gags "formula" was the reason people were dissapointed with Rat Race. It didn't stick to it and instead used real actors. I however see this as an advantage. Because they were funny. The whole movie is similar to Airplane! because it seems to be like a series of sketches. Most of them being very, very funny. Even though there was one or two jokes I didnt laugh at, the performances of the great ensemble cast made me grin. Rat Race is ambitious to make you laugh without resorting to mean humour like The Naked Gun or Airplane. It suceeds in doing this, as it's in my opinion: possibly one of the best sight comedy films of all time.
Super Reviewer
½ July 27, 2006
A full star cast with a fun race and bet, great characters - although I don't think I will ever enjoy Rowan Atkinson being Mr Bean like in mostly everything he does. Enjoyed the spin off stories, good fun and entertaining.
Super Reviewer
June 24, 2011
There's no other words except outrageously funny!
Super Reviewer
½ May 26, 2007
All those comics gathered together make for a rather amusing, fun movie. This is better than its original, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World.
michael e.
Super Reviewer
September 19, 2010
funniest film ive ever seen nothing left to say, okay i think i can talk a little more about why i like it so much. The cast was phenomenal because of how many big name actors they got in this movie, also it seems kind of like a remake of the movie "Its a mad, mad, mad, mad world" because it has all of the cast being comedians which "its a mad mad mad mad world" had too. and the humor is just spot on with this movie my favorite joke being when John Lovitz flips off the biker girl accidentally, they ruin Hitlers car that they are driving, he gets the cigarette lighter stuck in his mouth burning the inside of his mouth so he cant talk, and shoving his face into the lipstick he wiped on the steering wheel, and to top it all off they crash into a WWII veterans gathering, and he cant talk, and has a mark below his nose looking like Hitler, he ticks off the veterans, and he and his family drive away, that is hysterical.
Super Reviewer
June 24, 2007
Funny film with lots of celebrities. John Cleese sets up a tresure hunt and puts bets on the winner.
Super Reviewer
½ August 9, 2010
Hilarious! Everyone should experience this movie at least once!
Super Reviewer
July 21, 2010
Super Reviewer
½ June 3, 2007
A rebirth of the corny 80s road movie comedy, with a bunch of star actors racing across America in Cannonball Run style. I only watched it for John Cleese and he stole the show in his few scenes, the rest is for kids only.
Super Reviewer
January 13, 2010
A fun race to the finish kind of movie that never runs out of laughs! Great!
Super Reviewer
½ December 31, 2008
I forgot I had this on DVD, nothing special, enjoyable with some funny parts, but for the most part forgettable.
Super Reviewer
January 22, 2007
Repeated viewings have left me to realize that I'd rather sit through the original "It's A Mad, Mad...World" than this shitty remake. Very few comic moments.
Super Reviewer
June 2, 2006
One of the funniest movie ever made!!!!
Super Reviewer
May 16, 2007
*Yawn*. Supposedly a comedy, but you couldn't prove it by me. It got about two snickers and one real laugh out of me. Six people in Las Vegas get randomly chosen for a race to retrieve $2 million from a New Mexico train station locker. They all start off reasonably enough, but then get sidelined by ever more ridiculous obstacles. A lot of plot lines were just thrown in to bring characters together. This was a lot of manic screaming and crazy behavior and car wrecks, without any cleverness or heart. The only saving grace for me was Rowan Atkinson, who is more adept at playing slapstick, so pulled his Italian narcoleptic through just a lttle better. But even that was a problem. If he was a narcoleptic, why didn't he fall asleep more? I particularly disliked the sappy, feel-good ending. A lot of people seem to like this film. It's basically a remake of It's Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, so if you like that you'll like this too. I didn't and don't.
Super Reviewer
½ July 31, 2007
Funnier than I expected.
Super Reviewer
½ May 6, 2007
Saw it on an airplane. Even without the earphone I knew it sucked.
Super Reviewer
½ February 19, 2007
Hahahaha, oh noes.
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