Ty Burr
January 25, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

Rat Race

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
112 minutes
Wide Release Date
08/17/01
performer
Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jr., Seth Green, Jon Lovitz, Breckin Meyer, Amy Smart, Kathy Bates
director
Jerry Zucker
Producers
Alphaville Films, Fireworks Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Rat Race USA Inc.
distributor
Paramount Pictures
author
Andy Breckman
genre
Comedy

We gave it a B

January is the cinematic equivalent of the country club horse show, with award groups announcing their lists of last year’s worthies, earnest three-hour December releases clotting up theaters, everyone gearing up for Oscar season….What better time to watch Jon Lovitz do a Hitler impression for outraged WWII vets? Rat Race is a big, unapologetic pratfall comedy aimed at audiences unashamed to confess they miss such things, and for that reason, the wind it breaks is quite welcome about now.

Director Jerry (Airplane!) Zucker’s return to manic comedy is no It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (but, admit it, neither was It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World). Same scavenger-hunt premise, though: Here, Vegas casino owner John Cleese (sporting massive teeth) sends eight mixed nuts through the desert in search of $2 million. The laughs and misfires depend on the specific performers: Seth Green and Vince Vieluf are fairly dire as dim brothers, while nasty family man Lovitz is a joy, and Rowan Atkinson plays a marvelous Italian boob who bears a suspicious resemblance to Roberto Benigni. Anyway, what can you say about a movie in which two characters fight while hanging from a hot-air balloon with a cow? Other than that you won’t see that in Gosford Park? B

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