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Rat Race

Rat Race on DVD

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Update

They don't make 'em like this anymore. Rat Race is the type of zany, big cast screwball comedy no one has made (or at least made well) for a while now.

Directed by Airplane!'s Jerry Zucker, and inspired by (if not an actual remake of) Stanley Kramer's superior "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World," it's a tale of greed and the lengths to which people will go to get a share of the pie.

Monty Python/Fawlty Towers' John Cleese plays Donald Sinclair, fictionalized owner of the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. He has hatched the ultimate game for some of his best heeled customers, a race where they can bet on a new type of horse: human beings capable for the most part of conscious thought and independent action.

The carrot is a two million dollar prize stored in Silver City New Mexico, some 500 miles away. The thoroughbreds are chosen at random via special lucky token they win in the casino. When they try to cash in the token they're sent upstairs to meet Sinclair, and each other, and have the caper outlined for them.

Then they're off on a series of diverging courses filled with misadventures, mayhem, and mirth.

The six contestants are Rowan Atkinson, as a happy go lucky Italian who falls asleep at the most inconvenient times; Whoopi Goldberg as a mother who has just been reunited with her long lost daughter (Lanei Chapman); Cuba Gooding Jr. as a pro football referee hiding out after making a boneheaded call; Seth Green and Vince Vieluf as scheming, but incompetent, brothers; Jon Lovitz as a family man on vacation with wife (Kathy Najimy) and kids; Brekin Meyer as a lawyer drawn almost reluctantly into the fray.

Others join the race along the way and for all but about the last ten minutes we're treated to a very funny and reasonably adult yukfest that's perhaps the funniest movie to come along in some time. There's slapstick in the grand old tradition mixed with hipness and coupled with some great comic performances.

The cast looked as if they were having a ball filming Rat Race, and the joy comes through on screen.

Until the ending, which is so bad it leaves a horrible taste in your mouth that affects how you feel about the entire film.

In "Mad Mad World" the money was ill-gotten and the participants had done all kinds of awful things - therefore to allow the universe to unfold as it should no one could be allowed to get away with it intact. And they didn't; after all they went through, the money was dashed from their hands at the last minute and they were all held responsible for the havoc they wreaked throughout the film.

In Rat Race, however, they've tacked on an unbelievably politically correct ending that's so out of place, and out of character, it spoils the movie. The laughs screech to a stop about ten minutes from the end (not including the credits) and everyone suddenly becomes all moral and decent again - and then force their own newly-rediscovered morality onto those around them.


We'll take the Mad Mad Mad Mad World ending any day. At least that film ended with a joke, albeit the oldest one in the book.

A typically liberal Hollywood warm and fuzzy ending for what should be - and was until it disintegrated - a mindless romp in the home theater.

Oh well, what else would one expect?

The DVD is very good. The anamorphic widescreen picture, 16x9 compatible, is first rate, as is the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio. Paramount has even thrown in a good selection of extras, which is unusual for the studio, and most welcome. There's an exclusive interview with director Zucker and screenwriter Andy Breckman, some deleted scenes (most of which you'll be glad they deleted in the end) and a good feature on the making of the film, including mini-interviews with cast and crew.

There's also a gag reel, and a longish "giggles" part where Seth Green and Vince Vieluf keep breaking up while the director keeps the camera rolling. It wears thin about two minutes in, but it's pretty funny until then. You also get "Jerry and Andy call the Actors, a self indulgent bit of silliness that adds nothing to the overall package.

Rat Race, from Paramount Home Video
112 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Seth Green, Jon Lovitz, Breckin Meyer, Amy Smart
Produced by Jerry Zucker, Janet Zucker, Sean Daniel
Written by Andy Breckman, Directed by Jerry Zucker.


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Updated May 13, 2006