Rat Race (2001)? No winners in there, just a bunch of comedians making a lot of noise, trying very hard to live up to the standards of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The film Rat Race is simply an attempt to enact the Chase genre. It might favor young film fans, but the older generation might present some resistance. I mean, who would want to re-live those days. The director was wise not even to try to outdo that resistance.
To enact comedy right, you must try to stick to the rules; otherwise, you would be setting yourself up for a failure. Never make the mistake of exhausting the audience in the first few minutes of the show; otherwise, you won’t have much to work with towards the end. Rat Race starts with a great set up. It introduces the cast in a hotel in Las Vegas, which rolls out the film’s premise. There are two million dollars in a locker at a Solver City train station, 700 miles away.
A billionaire picks six persons randomly, issues each with a locker key, and sets them off on a quest noting that the first to get there earns money. The rules? None.
What follows is pure comedy. Some would argue that it’s funniest since South Park because it delivers in a challenging and satisfactory fashion, but hey, each one to his own opinion. The film is neither satire nor shock fest. Not an expression of one’s inner thought or a philosophical concept that needed to be said. There’s not much else other than just laughs, and there’s plenty of it, thanks to bits of inspiration here and there as well as its playfulness.
The outcomes? Let’s place it in the same circles as gifts. Visit your favorite cinema, laugh yourself silly. There’s enough fun in there to get by, thanks to director Jerry Zucker and Andy Breckman, screenwriter. There’s a healthy amount of the absurd, that, to be honest, the film, with its cynicism and shrewdness, feels like it has mastered what humanity is all about – craziness.
There’s plenty of outlandishness that the characters find themselves in. There’s Cuba Gooding, disgraced football referee, whose reputation went down the drain for messing up a simple call. He ends up in the desert partially naked and is forced to abduct Lucy impersonators headed for an I Love Lucy concord.
Everyone in the film is out of their mind, including Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, and Lanai Chapman. Even the calm and composed Tracy (played by Amy Smart), a chopper pilot with a dark temper, takes her role an abandon that makes it feel unreal.
The scene gags are innovative. There’s some fair amount of transition as scenes are nicely interwoven. But beware, some of the film’s jokes do not pay off until much later, so you need to be attentive all the way. The director understood how comedy is supposed to work. Be on the lookout for the character Kathy Bates; she has a nice cameo, that in hindsight, makes for a great joke – once you’re are looped in.