Rat Race (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I guess you could say this is a remake or maybe an homage to It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the classic slapstick comedy from about forty years ago. It was directed by Jerry Zucker, who teamed with his brother and others back in the 80's on the Airplane! and Naked Gun films. I guess I watched this movie because the Zucker movies used to crack me up.

The plot: several people are recruited in a Vegas casino to participate in a race. The manager of the casino has stashed two million dollars in a public locker in Silver City, New Mexico, and has given each of the contestants a working key to the locker. First one to open it gets all the money. No rules. Go.


Why this largesse to random strangers? It seems that the casino has assembled this contest as a betting game for the highest rollers on the strip. Bored of betting on cards and horses, the moguls place their bets on which of the Magnificent Seven will arrive first. When you think about it, it's a pretty cool idea.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • director interviews

  • behind-the-scenes featurette

  • several deleted scenes

The writers came up with some funny ideas. Cuba Gooding ends up hijacking a bus full of Lucille Ball impersonators. Jon Lovitz and his nice Jewish family manage to steal Hitler's personal touring car. It's a long story. His little girl wants to stop at the Barbie museum, and it turns out to be a Klaus Barbie museum, and ... never mind. You get the idea.

I thought it was quite funny and imaginative in places, especially Lovitz and the Nazis, but my reservation about the movie is that too much of it relies on pratfalls and silly faces and things falling apart. I stopped laughing at that schtick about 50 years ago. On the other hand, if you have kids or grandkids about 10 years old, it would be a solid way to pass some time with them. They'd find it disrespectful and silly enough, and you'd mine a few nuggets of comedy here and there.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Berardinelli 2.5/4, Apollo 71/100

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 7.2/10, Apollo voters 87/100. (Those are certainly higher than I would have expected. I would have guessed about 6.5/10)
  • With their dollars ... budgeted for $48 million, it grossed $56 million. That isn't bad, but the studio hoped it would be a blockbuster end-of-summer comedy. It did stay for six weeks on about 2500 screens, but disappointed relative to expectations.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. OK slapstick comedy, with some moments better than OK

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