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Laramie Movie Scope:
Rat Race

A funny tale of greed and silliness

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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September 11, 2001 -- "Rat Race" is a funny fable about the materialistic nature of our society. It is about greed elevated to the level of silliness. This movie is mostly just slapstick humor, but it is funnier than most recent films of this type.

The story has a group of ordinary strangers selected to participate in an anything-goes race over 500 miles to claim a $2 million prize. The race, financed by casino owner Donald Sinclair (John Cleese of "A Fish Called Wanda"), is held for profit (lots of side bets) and for the entertainment of a bunch of rich high rollers. Contestants include Enrico Pollini (Rowan Atkinson of "Bean"), Vera Baker (Whoopi Goldberg of "Monkeybone"), her daughter, Merrill Jennings (Lanei Chapman of "White Men Can't Jump"), Owen Templeton (Cuba Gooding Jr. of "Pearl Harbor"), Duane Cody (Seth Green of "Americas' Sweethearts"), his brother Blaine Cody (Vince Vieluf of "An American Werewolf in Paris"), Nick Schaffer (Breckin Meyer of "Go"), Tracy Faucet (Amy Smart of "Road Trip"), Randy Pear (Jon Lovitz of "3,000 Miles to Graceland"), his wife Bev (Kathy Najimy of "The Wedding Planner" and "Sister Act") and kids.

Since there are no rules for the race, contestants sabotage each other's chances to win, while merrily stealing cars, buses, and various other vehicles on their way to the big prize. There is no guilt or shame, just a ridiculous amount of greed. There are some memorable jokes in the movie, such as Templeton being stuck with a whole bus load of Lucille Ball impersonators on their way to an "I Love Lucy" convention, the theft of Hitler's car from a Neo-Nazi group, flying cows, a car hanging from a radar tower, and Kathy Bates, the squirrel lady.

Some of the jokes are in bad taste and some are just plain silly, but there are enough funny jokes for just about anyone. The ending seemed quite out of step with the rest of the film, but this is not a serious story. The movie does make one reflect a bit about how people will debase themselves for money. It isn't a lot different than what goes on in some of these new "reality" TV shows. Director Jerry Zucker ("Airplane!") shows here that he still has the comic touch. In fact, this is much funnier than most comedies being made these days by more contemporary directors. Cuba Gooding Jr. shows a real knack for physical comedy in this film. Amy Smart is great as a very angry helicopter pilot, Lovitz is very effective as the harried husband, Atkinson does his usual goofy schtick and Breckin Meyer is also effective in the film. Dean Cain is in the film, too, but I did not recognize him without his cape or Clark Kent outfit. Several people named Zucker also had bit parts in the film. This movie rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2001 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)