Rat Race [2001]

Director: Jerry Zucker
Stars: Breckin Meyer, Amy Smart, Whoopi Goldberg, Vince Vieluf, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Genre: Adventure, Comedy
Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 112 minutes

Modeled after 1963's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Jerry Zucker's Rat Race lacks the irreverence of Zucker's 1980 hit Airplane! but has enough chuckles to make it an agreeable time-killer. Like Mad, Mad, Mad..., it employs a huge ensemble of comedy stalwarts, assembled by an eccentric hotelier (pearly-toothed John Cleese) to race from Las Vegas to New Mexico for a $2 million jackpot. With a backstage gambling subplot, Rowan Atkinson's Italian-geek lunacy, Seth Green's slacker antics, and some nicely understated work from SCTV alumnus Dave Thomas, the movie has almost as many highlights as clunkers, and Zucker's embrace of easy gags and traditional slapstick will tickle anyone's old-fashioned funny bone. Other ingredients are hopelessly stale: Whoopi Goldberg's frantic mugging, Cuba Gooding's latter-day Stepin Fetchit, "mature" humor that compromises the movie's broad appeal, and the assumption that crashing vehicles are inherently hilarious. Lamentable decisions, perhaps, but Rat Race maintains a pleasantly altruistic spirit. --Jeff Shannon

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