Rat Race Review

The Movie
Take a look at the IMDB entry for this movie, check the movie connections section and it states “remake of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.” It’s true that this is a resurrection of the ensemble chase comedy, but it is not really a remake of that sixties movie, more a genre remake. This time around we have a group of people in Las Vegas who by chance win the right to take part in a competition run by hotel owner Donald Sinclair (John Cleese). This group includes – amongst others - a football referee (Cuba Gooding Jr), in town to forget about screwing up a game and costing a lot of punters a lot of money, a recently reunited mother and daughter (Whoopi Goldberg and Lanei Chapman), and Enrico Pollini (Rowan Atkinson playing an Italian Mr Bean). Each are given a key to a locker in Silver City, New Mexico that contains two million dollars. From then on, the race is on with each contestant taking their own path and getting into their own scrapes, whilst trying to hinder the others as well.

After seeing the trailers for this movie I had extremely low expectations for this ensemble comedy. Whilst it is – as you would expect – hit and miss, and is certainly not “quite possibly the funniest movie ever” as quoted on the box, it is funnier than I thought it would be. Whilst there are some lame parts of the movie - Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean-like character for one – there are also some hilarious sequences as well – Jon Lovitz and Hitler’s staff car being a notable one. The film also has a zany and sometimes surreal humour at heart that is a refreshing change from the constant onslaught of “gross out” comedies that have come our way recently. Some of the background detail is also very funny, Donald Sinclair’s rich gamblers will bet on anything if you keep a look out whenever they are on screen.

On the downside, if you are not in the right frame of mind to watch some of the more stupid sequences of the movie, then you may not make it to the end, though Zucker’s direction has enough pace, unlike in say Austin Powers: the spy who shagged me, to move you on fairly quickly if things aren't working. As for the ending, it is far and away the worst aspect of the movie, being an extremely lame cop-out.

Hit and miss certainly, but the occasional very funny hit makes it just about worthwhile, if you like this kind of movie. Not a patch on Zucker’s best (early) work, but it could have been a lot worse in the hands of a lesser comedy director.

The 2.35:1 anamorphic image is of pretty good quality, as this is a bright and colourful movie, and it comes across well here. Not the very best, but nothing to complain about.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is clear and functional, without being anything particularly spectacular. The rear channels are mostly used for ambient effects. There are also English and French Dolby Surround 2.0 tracks available.

Video Extras
Firstly, what would have been nice to have: as this is a “multi-threaded” storyline, an ability to run each thread on its own would have been useful, especially as there are not enough chapter stops to find any given scene. Gripe over, here’s what you do get:

Making Rat Race is the standard featurette, which as you would expect is mostly promo material. It starts with the actors introducing their characters, but running out at 23 minutes gives it a bit more time than the usual lightweight fluff, so there is space to see behind the scenes and how some stunts were done, as well as Jerry Zucker’s thoughts on how to direct an ensemble piece. As usual, too much plot is given away, so watch it after the film.

The ”Exclusive” interview with director Jerry Zucker and writer Andy Breckman complements the featurette and gives them time to explain the script to screen process and some of the development and changes that occurred (such as the Lucy’s originally being Elvis’s). It runs for about eight minutes.

There are six deleted scenes here, all in non-anamorphic widescreen and pretty ropey quality. Each are introduced by Zucker, explaining why they were cut. Nothing here was vital for the movie, but Cuba Gooding was apparently a little unhappy that his exhausting scene involving a house on a trailer and some wrestlers eventually got chopped.

When you have a movie full of comics, it’s inevitable that there will be plenty of film wasted when they clown around in front of the cameras. This gag reel runs for around four minutes, and is unsurprisingly sometimes funny, sometimes not. Following on from this is The Giggles which is a particular out-take running five minutes where Seth Green and Vince Vieluf keep cracking up while trying to complete a scene.

Something slightly different is Jerry and Andy call the actors. Apparently director Jerry (Zucker) and writer Andy (Breckman) went into the studio to record a commentary for the movie, but couldn’t come up with enough interesting material. So instead they telephoned the stars of the movie and recorded the chats here. Much like the movie it’s a bit hit and miss, and with just audio it can drag a bit in places. Still, just about enough of it is amusing to take a listen.

Finally, the theatrical trailer is here, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.

DVD-ROM Extras
There aren’t any.

Final Thoughts
This ensemble comedy is much better than I thought it was going to be, but then I had very low expectations for it. It is hit and miss, but there are a couple of very funny sequences that make it worthwhile as undemanding post-pub fun. As for the DVD itself, ignore the words “Special Collector’s Edition” on the disc box, as the extras are nothing more than average.

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out of 10

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