Rat Race (2001) / Comedy-Adventure

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual references, crude humor, partial nudity and language
Running Time: 112 min.

Cast: Breckin Meyer, Jon Lovitz, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Cleese
Director: Jerry Zucker
Screenplay: Andy Breckman

Review published August 6, 2001

I am not sure which is the most astonishing feat evidenced from watching Rat Race: Jerry Zucker (Ruthless People, Airplane!, The Naked Gun) not providing laughs or in the very fact that Rat Race could get a green light to be made to begin with.  Rat Race features an all-star cast of people who at one time we found amusing, but most of which are considered tedious today.  When was the last time Whoopi (Monkeybone) was funny?  How about Jon Lovitz (3000 Miles to Graceland)?  John Cleese (The World is Not Enough)?  Cuba Gooding Jr. (Pearl Harbor)? Rowan Atkinson (Maybe Baby)?  Yeah, it's been a while since any of these evoked a chuckle.  Hell, did you ever think Breckin Meyer (Road Trip), Seth Green (America's Sweethearts), Dean Cain (Out of Time), or Amy Smart (Outside Providence) funny in the slightest?   Guess what happens when you pool this lot of unfunny talent together?  I'm still reeling from the pain...

John Cleese plays Donald Sinclair, a billionaire Vegas casino owner who concocts a new form of race, better than horse races because the participants can lie, cheat and steal their way to the finish line.  The race involves human beings who, through their need for greed, are pooled together in a race to get a bag of money in the sum of $2 million in Silver City, New Mexico.  Now the race is set, but the bumbling contestants took out the airport so must hit the road while outdoing the other racers on the way.

Yeah, I remember liking the Wacky Races.  I also remember liking Cannonball Run.  Hell, what did I know, I was just a kid!   Rat Race is similar, bringing together a cast of eccentric characters and hoping their interactions will make for some hilarious moments, but the film fails miserably in this regard.  Energy does not always equal comedy, as evidenced from the lack of genuine laughs for the entire duration despite the frenetic pace of the action.  The problems start off with the fact that the characters themselves aren't written with much inspiration, and casting that is unappealing for those roles to boot. 

Rat Race is a one-joke premise that makes little sense.  It might be funny as one of those "Reality TV" shows, but considering none of the participants in the race are even being filmed (they are monitored with a homing device in the keys they wear which merely show their location), why anyone would be interested in watching or betting on this race is beyond comprehension.  There are some eccentric side characters they run into, some humorous, most tedious.  Rat Race is so terrifyingly unfunny that the breathless pace will only be matched by the race most viewers will have in flooding to the parking lot after the film is over.

Qwipster's rating:

2001 Vince Leo