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Rat Race

Starring Rowan Atkinson, Kathy Bates, Lanai Chapman, John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Seth Green, Jon Lovitz, Breckin Meyer, Kathy Najimy, Paul Rodriguez, Amy Smart, Vince Vieluf
Screenplay by Andy Breckman
Directed by Jerry Zucker

Before we begin, John Cleese and Jon Lovitz talk all things Ratty in CrankyCritic® Star Talk. Click here for Cleese! Here for Lovitz!

IN SHORT: A generic race flick and a dud if you're old enough to remember the predecessors. [Rated PG-13 for sexual references, crude humor, partial nudity and language. minutes]

Despite all the warnings on the ratings list above, Jerry Zucker's Rat Race would be suitable for almost everyone eight years old and up (our nephew's age -- he would love this stupid comedy) except for one scene with a string of four letter words in it. Ultimately the decision to shovel the, uh, [enter a four letter word here] rests in Zucker's lap. But somewhere there is an executive that didn't raise a finger to stop him so ... Memo to Paramount Pictures: find the moron responsible and fire his or her idiot butt.

Of course, we're in a sour mood because we really needed to sit down to a raucous comedy and laugh our more than prodigious butt off. For some reason, we got seated in a "no laughing zone". We know it was a NLZ because no one around us was laughing. Across the aisle -- we always sit on the aisle -- everyone else was consistently chuckling. No guffaws rocked our side of the house, aside from one incredibly funny scene with Jon Lovitz as Adolph Hitler, but those other lucky sods were having a good time.

We think it's simply put this way: If you're old enough to remember It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World from either of its releases, or Cannonball Run (but not the awful sequel) you're probably too old for Rat Race. Then again, if you're the reader who delights in telling our message boards that we have no taste in comedy, step right up.

It is Las Vegas casino owner Donald Sinclair (John Cleese) who gets the ball rolling, seeding his slot machines with six gold tokens that serve as his invitation to the race o f the century. The lucky winners: Vera Baker (Whoopi Goldberg) and her daughter Merrill (Lanai Chapman); NFL referee Owen Templeton (Cuba Gooding Jr) with tagalong cab driver, Gus (Paul Rodriguez) who lost 20 grand on a bad call; a narcoleptic Italian tourist named Pollini (Rowan Atkinson); the con men Cody Brothers (Seth Green and Vince Vieluf); Nick Shaffer (Breckin Meyer) and his helicopter pilot Tracy (Amy Smart);and the Pear Family (Jon Lovitz, Kathy Najimyand crew). The terms of the race: the first contestant to get from Las Vegas, Nevada to Silver City, New Mexico (where the first Gold Strike was made) uses a special key to unlock a bus locker with 2 millions cash inside. It's a simple jaunt, which means these simpletons manage to screw it up in all sorts of would be hilarious ways.

Along the way some will encounter a bus full of Lucy Ricardo imitators (if you've seen the teevee spot or trailer, you've already seen the gag) and a flying cow. All will manage to demolish their chosen modes of transportation in as spectacular a fashion as the screenwriters can devise.

John Cleese starts everything off with a comedic bang! It's all downhill from there, until Jon Lovitz goes bananas (as referenced above). One critic pal of ours put it this way: "Lovitz' bit was worth every penny of the ticket". We'll put it like this...

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Rat Race, he would have paid . . .


We agree with him. But we'd rent.

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