ratraceIf you've been looking for a movie that combines the comic talents of John Cleese, Jon Lovitz, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Seth Green and Dave Thomas, then you need to look somewhere other than Rat Race, the 2001 race-to-video release from the infamous, malformed Jerry Zucker.

This crude foray into the "wacky race movie genre" has John Cleese as an eccentric Las Vegas casino owner who selects a bunch of saps at random to slapstick their way to $2 million in loot, holed up 563 miles away in Silver City, New Mexico. The only rule is that there "are no rules," explains Cleese, who then promptly vanishes, along with any hope of comedic salvation as the sappy chase commences. Oh yeah: a bunch of rich guys are betting on who will be the winner.  Get it? Ahh, yeah.

The characters are a collection of clichés that lack any of the originality that made Airplane! such a dopey classic. You've got a Nazi-phobic Jew who ends up stealing Adolph Hitler's touring car, for instance, played by the ever forgettable Jon Lovitz. Funny, huh.

The most disturbing performance of the lot, however, was phoned in by British actor Rowan Atkinson, who really needs some career guidance.  Atkinson, who won our respect in the BBC's "The Black Adder," and lost it again as the lobotomized "Mr. Bean," here plays a narcoleptic Italian caricature whose role in the movie is, apparently to speak incomprehensible Italian and collect a paycheck. Seek help, Rowan. Please, seek help.  We love you, man!

Another particularly boring subplot involved Breckin Meyer as a lawyer, I think, whose major hangup is that he doesn't want to break the law, a condition rectified when Amy Smart enters his life.  She teaches us all, I guess, that breaking the law is not only cool and funny but sexually stimulating.  Thanks for the PSA, Jerry.

On the whole the chase is as predictable as it is boring, a half-assed tribute to Stanley Kramer's "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," and midway into the 112 minute running time, I'm finding myself looking for more interesting fare on The Food Network, and tuning into the Comedy Channel's latest movie resurrection.  I'd suggest you not bother with this film altogether were it not for John Cleese, whose performance is a shining light surrounded by darkness, and for a few scenes like the squirrel lady (played by Kathy Bates), which are worth a cheap rental... but no more.

It's interesting to note that the writer of this little shambles is Andy Breckman, another guy who needs to start questioning his career choice, who adds this puppy to a long list of cinematic failures following a winning 1975 writing spot on NBC's SNL, twenty-seven years ago.  Breckman you won't remember from such flicks as the inane "Sgt. Bilko" (1996), the romantic-stupidity "I.Q." (1994) and the asinine sequel "Arthur 2: On the Rocks" (1988).  Add 'em all up and you couldn't light a match with that comedic combustion.

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