by Jason Whyte
"Rat Race" has an ending similar to "American History X" or "Pay It Forward" that will just leave the viewer dumbfounded. "What the hell happened?" spilled through my mind as what would have been a good, solid comedy is left ransacked by a nauseating clunker of a finale. If the film were to end at a particular spot (and I know exactly where), I would be numb with laughter. After feeling giddy and satisfied for 95 minutes, the rest of the proceedings just pissed me off.And let me tell you, it was looking pretty good. A wealthy casino owner (John Cleese) has stashed $2 million in a locker in Silvercity, Nevada and sends eight complete strangers from Las Vegas to fetch it. The eight are from every form of life imaginable. There's a family man (Jon Lovitz), a narcaleptic foreigner(Rowan Atkinson), a pair of goofy teenagers (Seth Green and Vince Vieluf ), a businessman (Seth Green) with a helicopter pilot (Amy Smart), two friends visiting Vegas (Whoopi Goldberg and Lanai Chapman) and a former coach (Cuba Gooding Jr.), all of whom go "It's a Mad Mad World" style to see who gets the cash first.
"Great fun...just make sure you leave in the last reel."
Penelope Spherris once said "In comedy, you have to let your audience where you are going in the first five minutes." Director Jerry Zucker, whose "Airplane!" I consider one of the top five comedies ever made, doesn't seem to remember it. Not counting the excellent opening credits, it takes a while for "Rat Race" to actually take off, spending way too long on the eight individuals and their setups. Part of the reason is the talent involved, and they all have to have their due screen time, but it still flounders. Things really pick up once the race starts going and all of our characters get into impossible, cartoonish antics. I loved scenes such as Atkinson jumping onto a train, Lovitz crashing into a war rally with Hitler's truck and a rocket blast, complete with flapping mouths, et al. For a while, I was laughing loud and pleased, thinking this is a welcome relief from the year's bad comedies.
And then this ending comes, in a way of making the eight fully realize how far their greed has gone. At one point, I was ok with the reasoning, but the pacing was incredibly bad. A comedy is supposed to make you laugh throughout, this final passage was an interminable and endless bore, complete with Smash Mouth, yet again, singing "All Star." Who knew that the use in "Shrek," one of the year's best films, would have such a backwards effect here? I sat wondering if another film or an accidental deleted scene was cut back in.Still, for what it's worth, the film has some good humour despite the lame-brained last reel of film. The film's best line? It's not even from a main character, but when Lovitz' daughter is riding in the back seat in Hitler's car, and finds a pair of lady's sunglasses. She puts them on and remarks, Monroe-like, "Look, I'm Mrs. Hitler!"
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originally posted: 09/14/04 01:44:45