HTF REVIEW: "Rat Race"

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 18, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    [​IMG]
    Rat Race

    "There's only one rule: there are no rules!"
    Hands down, this has to be one of the funniest
    scenes in cinematic history, and I'll try not to
    ruin the final joke for you.....Jon Lovitz is
    racing his family across the interstate in Hitler's
    stolen car (don't ask!). He comes upon a biker
    chick who rides up alongside the car. As she does
    this, Lovitz burns his middle finger which causes
    him to mistakenly raise it to her. Next thing you
    know, there are dozens of angry biker chicks who
    force the car off the road, where it crashes in
    the one place you don't want to be seen riding in
    a Nazi car. The final joke is so uproariously funny
    that I had tears in my eyes from laughing too hard.
    Unfortunately, that scene is probably the only
    part of the movie you'll laugh at.
    Rat Race brings back the grand, long forgotten
    era of big chase ensemble slapstick comedy. In
    essence, it is a homage to to the great It's a Mad,
    Mad, Mad, Mad World which pitted Hollywood's
    greatest comics against each other in a race to find
    hidden treasure. Unfortunately this time around,
    I wouldn't dare call all this cast "Hollywood's greatest".
    Donald Sinclair (John Cleese) is an eccentric Vegas
    tycoon that is out to keep his hotel on top by
    inventing a new sport to entertain his highest
    rollers: A human Rat Race.
    Six people are randomly chosen to partake in this
    contest. They include Vera Baker (Whoopie Goldberg),
    a Mother finding her adopted daughter after all these
    years; Owen Temleton (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), an NFL
    coach who blew the most important game of the year;
    Randy Pear (Jon Lovitz), who can't resist a gambling
    wager; and The Cody brothers (Seth Green and Vince Vieluf),
    who ride cross country causing problems wherever
    they go. Finally, there is Mr.Pollini (Rowan Akinson
    from "Bean") a cheerful, narcoleptic Italian who
    becomes more annoying than funny throughout the film.
    The contest is simple: There is a two million dollar
    jackpot resting in a duffel bag, inside a locker, in
    Silver City, New Mexico - 563 miles away. The first
    person to reach it, gets it all TAX FREE.
    The rest of the film continues with assorted physical
    comedy gags that never really hit their mark. Whether
    our contestants get caught traveling in a bus full
    of "I Love Lucy" wannabees, or riding in a super
    sonic jet car, the film entertains us with its hairbrain
    situations rather than its humor.
    This is my first official Paramount Review based
    on early screener product. I am very excited about
    reviewing more Paramount titles as the studio has a
    reputation of putting out consistently great anamorphic
    titles. Rat Race is no exception to the
    Paramount rule. The transfer is absolutely exquisite.
    Picture is very clean, crisp and clear. There is
    absolutely no visible grain to be seen anywhere.
    The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix sounds great, although
    most of the sound is across the front speakers, with
    effect noise popping up through the rears when needed.
    In other words, the soundtrack sounds terrific but
    this is nothing you'll be showing off as demo.
    Special Features
    Once again, here is an example where the Special
    Features on a DVD actually turn out to be as or
    more fun than the movie itself.
    I am always skeptical about Making of featurettes,
    because you never know if they are going to overly
    interesting or just dull, promotional fluff pieces.
    I actually found The Making of Rat Race to be
    loads of fun -- that is -- as soon as you can get past
    all the actors kissing up to each other by saying how
    much they love one another.
    Everyone who was part of this film has something to
    contribute to this 22 minute documentary. John Cleese
    exclaims this was the best film he had been offered
    in 20 years. Cuba Gooding refers to the filming
    as the most physically and mentally demanding of all
    his films, but admits that everyday is like going to
    a circus with the huge ensemble of comics.
    Director Jerry Zucker talks about why he was lured
    to making this film. We also see frequent footage
    of Jerry behind the camera putting the scenes together.
    In fact, the whole process of keeping track of all
    the characters became so difficult, that Jerry had
    to use different colored cards for each character when
    laying out the storyboard.
    Want to see how the rocket car scene was filmed?
    An empty car chasing Seth Green? How about keeping
    40 Lucy extras in line? It's all shown here! Plus,
    as a bonus, we see how Jerry's Mom was used in yet
    another Zucker film (with rememberances of past).
    Moving right along....
    There are 6 Deleted Scenes that are presented
    with an individual introduction by Jerry Zucker. Jerry
    explains that when you usually shoot something its funny,
    but not necessarily funny in context. Most all the
    cuts are very small except for a longer cut involving
    Cuba Gooding and a moving house that Zucker painfully
    removed from the film. In another cut sequence, we
    see a group of Lucy impersonators being greeted by a
    busload of Ricky Ricardo impersonators.
    My favorite addition to any DVD is the Gag Reel,
    which is usually something put together by the Editors
    for the private enjoyment of the cast during the film's
    wrap party. This is a very funny 3-minute collage of
    the film's most noted flubs set to hip music.
    An Exclusive Interview with Director Jerry
    Zucker and Writer Andy Breckman brings together
    two individuals that fit each other's humor like
    a glove. These overgrown children talk about the
    script, how they mapped out the physical stunts that
    were involved, as well as the task of creating
    interesting characters and casting those characters.
    Now HERE'S something you don't see too often....
    Jerry and Andy call the actors gives you
    the choice of selecting 13 of the primary stars
    of this film and hearing the Director and Writer
    making phone calls to these individuals at the
    most unlikely moment. It's a great way of getting
    some spur-of-the-moment commentary for the DVD.
    Jerry Zucker wanted to include this little segment,
    Giggles, because he wanted to show what
    happens when you keep the camera rolling when
    actors flub their lines. Case in point -- Seth
    Green and Vince Vieluf can't seem to get their
    lines out without cracking each other up. The
    camera never stops rolling as these two actors try
    to get their act together.
    Finally, the film's original Theatrical Trailer
    is included.
    Final Thoughts
    You will either like or dislike Rat Race
    depending on how you approach the film. In making
    a movie that reflects the grand style of a bygone
    era of big slapstick comedy, this film somewhat
    succeeds. It's a fun movie to watch. So was the
    exact case with It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
    However, coming from 1/3 the team of Zucker/Zucker
    and Abrahams, who brought us Naked Gun, Airplane
    and Top Secret, I can't believe this Jerry
    Zucker film is as unfunny as it is.
    If you gave ME the opportunity to make this movie,
    I'd use the same premise but use Hollywood's greatest
    cast of comedians (and I would use dozens of them) and
    put lots of unexpected cameos in the film by some of
    today's biggest stars. THAT would be the ultimate
    homage to It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
    Should you buy or should you rent? I bought it
    sight unseen and I am not overly disappointed.
    Paramount has put together a very nice Collector's
    Edition packed with really FUN extras. I mean, none
    of the added material should be skipped over. Those
    that wish to be more cautious may better opt renting
    the movie first.
    Release Date: January 29, 2002
     
  2. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    many of my friends have RAVED About this film to me and im dying to see it!

    Im a big Mad World fan, and a HUGE Rowan Atkinson fan, so possibly i wont be annoyed by him lol.

    One question - are the phone calls and the conversation a separate thing or are they commentary over the film?
     
  3. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Moe,

    The phone calls are in the supplementals.

    (For those of you with big-screen TVs, be

    sure to turn picture off to avoid screen burn-in)
     
  4. Scott_J

    Scott_J Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the review, Ron. I enjoyed the film when I saw it in the theatre, so I've been looking forward to this release. And now after reading your review, the extras sound very enjoyable - can't wait to see them.

    One question, though. Image's site lists among the extres an audio commentary with Zucker and Breckman. Is that on the disc, or was it replaced by the interview with the 2 instead? Thanks.
     
  5. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Thanks for the review. I saw Rat Race on my birthday this at -- get this -- a Drive-In theater! [​IMG] It was a perfect drive-in, birthday movie.
    I'm reluctant to watch it again, at the risk of tarnishing my warm feelings for the movie. But the extras sound like a lot of fun.
    Ah, the dilemma [​IMG]
     
  6. Joel C

    Joel C Screenwriter

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    Both my brother and my parents couldn't stop telling me this was funny, so I'm looking foward to it.
     
  7. Shawn C

    Shawn C Screenwriter

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    It's a very silly movie. I thought it was a pretty funny movie. You need to have a slap-stick-silly-goofy friendly sense of humor to like this movie.

    I will be picking this up.
     
  8. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Lead Actor

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  9. Scott_J

    Scott_J Cinematographer

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  10. MikeAW

    MikeAW Second Unit

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    It's a shame that Warner Bros. has "leased out" this story...Paramount already owned the title...for updating, and to be compared with, but fortunately in name only, to the 1969 original film "The Great Race", and directed by Blake Edwards.

    Since it seems no one remembers, this picture was a charmingly light and fluffy satire, starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk, Natalie Wood, Keenan Wynn.

    Jack Lemmon's "Professor Fate" character, with sidekick Peter Falk were extremely entertaining as the Villians, so you get the idea ! Entertainingly charming and fluffy ?

    If you don't believe me set your TIVOS and check it out on ENCORE, January 24, 7:30Am .

    What did Blake Edwards do to the Zucker Bros....or Paramount...to deserve such a sucky film "homage" ? The only reason I think the Zucker's even bothered, was that they are too lazy to come up with something original anymore. I can't think of anyone who deserves this slammed together, unfunny film! Especially the audience, to having been offered this film..ahem..choice.

    I can just imagine the Zucker Brothers...it had to be an assistant of their agent's...thumbing through some kind of rolladex of all of those interesting film titles owned by Paramount and they had to pick this one. If their next one, is as unoriginal and banal, they will be going back to Tv soon...or wherever washed up comedians go these days...Fox Tv, is it ?
     
  11. David Lawson

    David Lawson Screenwriter

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    Cuba Gooding Jr. was a referee, not a coach...right?

    I saw this in the theatre and agree that there are some extremely funny sequences, mainly involving the squirrel, and the two brothers. I'm not sure it works as a feature-length film, though, so I'll probably pass on the DVD.
     
  12. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    I gave the movie 2 out of 5 stars when I first saw it, but I've been looking forward to giving it another shot. Suffice to say that Ron's praise for the extras helps me make that decision.
    Damn good review Ron! But you thought that Hitler bit was funny??? GAK!! [​IMG]
     
  13. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    mike - this movie has nothing to do with The Great Race (one of Blake Edwards' worst in my opinion, only beaten maybe by Darling Lili...)

    Its an homage of IAMMMMW if anything...
     
  14. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    ...or a remake of Scavenger Hunt. [​IMG]
     
  15. CraigMc

    CraigMc Extra

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    What about Amy Smart and Breckin Meyer's characters?? There was a hilarious sequence involving a helicopter and these two characters that (IMO) ranks right up there with the scene that ron mentioned.
    So it's 8 participants in the great race, not 6 [​IMG]
     
  16. MikeAW

    MikeAW Second Unit

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    Moe, it's a rip off.
     
  17. Matthew Chmiel

    Matthew Chmiel Cinematographer

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    IMHO, I thought they were the most underused along with Whoopi and the person who played her daughter. I didn't find any of their scenarios during the film funny at all.
    Also, the two best scenes in Rat Race involved the hooker with Dave Thomas' character and the scene with the Cody brothers running away from the monster truck. [​IMG]
     
  18. cafink

    cafink Producer

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  19. MikeAW

    MikeAW Second Unit

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    Matthew, I you have ENCORE see "The Great Race" on January 24 at 730AM...confirm the time and date...then make your comments, otherwise YOU are the one making irresponsible opinions without seeing the films, as you accuse me of doing.

    I'm sure even you would enjoy the Blake Edward's film and see the Zucker Bros. monstrosity for what it is. That's if you have the sense of humor to recognize true entertainment from assaults on the senses.
     
  20. Joel C

    Joel C Screenwriter

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