Rat Race


  • The Center Square
  • Cuba!!!!!!
  • Wacky and Zany Stereotypes
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Directed by the Z of ZAZ "Lorne Michaels Says,'Oh Sure, Jon. Mow my Yard and I'll Give you  a Sketch Comedy Show.'What a lying little son of a...."

"Rat" Bastard Jerry Zucker Directs the Biggest Racist Farce since Nordberg's Trial.


There used to be a time, say late 80's or early 90's, where the news that either Jim Abrahams, David or Jerry Zucker were making a movie would have been met with unbridled excitement. These guys did Kentucky Fried Movie, Airplane!, Top Secret!, Ruthless People, The Naked Gun series, and Hot Shots! That list in itself contains some of the funniest movies ever made. They pushed the envelope and had no hesitation in doing so. Yet, the characters that inhabited their films possessed a peculiar innocence that seemed to justify what they were doing and made the sights more acceptably enjoyable. Elaine Dickinson didn't think that it looked like she was giving Otto the Automatic Pilot a blowjob and Frank Drebin didn't mean to barge into the naked woman's room swinging around a concrete dildo. It just happened and the results created comic bliss that flowed like water.

    Then, something bad happened. I don't know if  OJ going to trial or the Farralley brothers geeting a multi-million dollar contract with Fox or the fact that Jerry directed Ghost is to blame, but the trio began to lose their magic. Abrahams phoned in Hot Shots Part Deux and Jane Austen's Mafia! was a parody that should have been produced twenty five years earlier. David Zucker's only contribution to American cinema since Naked Gun 2 and a Half was Baseketball, a mercilessly vulgar cash-in attempt on the popularity of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Not to be a Monday Morning quarterback, but the South Park characters were the things that were popular, not these guys.) And yes, Jerry did direct Ghost which, while making a buttload of money and getting nominated for Best Picture, still sucked. But the film's success allowed him to make First Knight some years later. This film was supposed to be about King Arthur but really became a film about how creepy Richard Gere and Julia Ormond looked when they made out. That movie stunk up the multiplexes and Jerry has been in retreat until now. Now we have Rat Race, a film that strives to be a return to grace but ends being at best an obnoxious dud but only when its not pissing off the audience.

        Here's the plot: A group of shloubs get randomly chosen by a rich eccentric (John Cleese) to participate in a cross-country race for a bus locker that contains $2 million. What they don't realize is that they are also being used as pawns in a game where some other rich guys place bets on who will get their first. That twist has all sorts of potential to formulate into an underlying subtext of how the rich use the little guy for their own pleasure. Or at the very least create some humerous obstacles. But no, the filmmakers kind of leave it hanging in the wind. But this is the least of their crimes. They also underuse a cast that contains members of some of the greatest comedy groups of all time. (If you don't believe me, consider Cleese of Monty Python, Rowan Atkinson of Black Adder, Jon Lovitz from the 1986-90 cast of Saturday Night Live, Wayne Knight of Seinfeld and Dave Thomas of SCTV. There, I rest my case.) But it also contains Paul Rodriguez, Cuba, and Whoopi Goldberg. Maybe they can be blamed for bringing the others down. I do know I can pin Whoopi to a quote of her's from the film's LA premiere. Here, make sure you're sitting down. She said, "I feel that since this is the first time in history that two African-American Oscars winners appear together (that would be Whoopi and Cuba), that this film is IMPORTANT and that everyone should see it."        

     All right, I will conceed that mainstream Hollywood does not do enough for the African-American communtiy and that the Oscars have been guilty in the past of neglecting to honor the few minorities that are allowed to make prominent work. Having said that, how can Ms. Goldberg say that this film stands as some sort of racial statement of historical momentum along the lines of the bus boycott's or Watts when it contains the following moments: (1) Lovitz crashing through a WWII veteran's tribute driving a Nazi car and wearing a Hilter-esque mushtache. The film goes to great lenghts to create this scenario and it succeeds in offending Jews and the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces. (2) Cuba running away from a group of Lucille Ball look-a-likes in a Skepit Fetchit-type jig. Bamboozling might be the best way to put it. (And yes, I said Lucille Ball look-alikes. I wonder what was going through the mind of the screenwriter when he was aiming for the 12-year-old mentality and then populated it with an icon that most people under twenty have probably never even seen on television but only heard about when grandma and grandpa talk about the 50's.) (3) A main character who has suffered from a medical condition that makes him sound mentally retarded. He acts kind of retarded, but we are assured that we can laugh at him because he's NOT REALLY RETARDED. (4) And finally there's a scene where Atkinson's character looks to be sexually molesting a six-month old child! Some may say this is an inncoent mistake on his character's part, but the scene almost made me question the very existence of taste. Plus, they throw in some fat chick falling down a flight of stairs in an extended shot and one of the most unpleasant poop jokes of the summer. I can assure you that Whoopi had the dig into the lower surfaces of her soul to imply that this film is important to the racially sensitive fabric of our society. Man, does anyone have any shame left?

    Well, certainly not Zucker. He's forces us to sit through this crap and then tries to put this hideous "feel good" ending. And not just any "feel good" ending. I hope you're sitting down again because it climaxes at a friggin' Smash Mouth concert! And they sing "All Star" again! I am going to petition the MPAA immediately to create a "SM" rating so we can all be warned when this untalented fat putz and his God-awful band show up to play that damned song that has been haunting my nightmares since Mystery Men. This, for me, officially marked the end of the ZAZ innocence I once possessed. Zucker danced around  provocative humor which ended up becoming awkward vulgarity for two hours and then sold it out at the end anyway. I will admit to one scence that made me laugh--it was the moment two characters were holding on to a dairy cow that was swinging from a hot-air balloon. The moment was manic and it forced the two actors to do some most unusual things with the bovine body that I would not have expected. It felt good to laugh and this and I had wished that the rest of the movie had as much comic energy. Alas, maybe I can hope for the ZAZ boys to take the Mel Brooks route and ship the Kentucky Fried Theatre troupe all the way to Broadway. Eh, or maybe I should just go buy the Police Squad television series on DVD.

The Pitch:
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1 Cannonball Ball
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1 Kentucky Fried Movie
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2 for Rat Race
See Rat Race For:
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Cuba's Stirring, Race-Bending Performance in Speed 3: The Rosa Parks Story