By Trafton Drew
Even die-hard fans of the slapstick humor of movies like "Airplane!" must admit that this brand of humor is hit-or-miss.
"Rat Race," very much in the "Airplane" vein, misses more often than not.
After brief introductions, the plot is set in motion when an eccentric casino owner randomly chooses six people to race from his Las Vegas casino to a train station in New Mexico for $2 million. Zany high jinks ensue.
Director Jerry Zucker, who made a name for himself with "Airplane!" and "Naked Gun," filled the cast with pseudo-stars, people you recognize but can't bring yourself to call "stars."
People like Jon Lovitz, Seth Green (Dr. Evil's son), Wayne Knight (Newman from "Seinfeld") and international superstar Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean). Also involved are legitimate (if somewhat-past-their-prime) stars, Whoopi Goldberg, John Cleese and Cuba Gooding Jr.
Atkinson has achieved a remarkable amount of success in Europe with his Mr. Bean character, but something must have been lost in the trans-Atlantic translation. The running joke with Atkinson seems to be that he is painfully unfunny.
Wayne Knight seems to be becoming typecast as an irritating delivery person. This time, rather than delivering mail or dinosaur embryos, he is transporting a human heart with the help of Atkinson. Though predictable, at least the physical humor in this section could be appreciated by the majority of the audience.
Gooding's section of film is one of the worst targeted in recent memory. Almost all jokes revolve around the fact that Gooding hijacks a bus full of Lucille Ball impersonators.
"Rat Race" is a remake of 1963's "It's a Mad, Mad World," but it'd be surprising if many of the young audience members had seen the film's basis or remember anything about "I Love Lucy." As a result, most of the jokes in this section of the film go directly over the audience's head.
Other aspects of the film work far better. Lovitz plays a soccer mom's subservient husband complete with racing minivan.
For some reason, Randy (Lovitz) decides not to tell his family that he is racing for $2 million. He spends the majority of the film trying to convince his children that they don't have to go to the bathroom.
The strength of "Rat Race" is that it never stops trying. If one dumb joke doesn't work, there will be three more just like it within the next minute. Even if most of the jokes inspired more groans than laughs from the audience, at least it was entertaining.
They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but you can often judge a comedy by its trailer. Trailers usually have some of the movie's best moments. "Rat Race" is no exception.
If watching Seth Green dangle from a cow that is being dragged by a hot air balloon sounds like a delicious comedic treat, see this movie as soon as possible. If it doesn't, don't.
The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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