Zucker lets the Rat out of the bag

Rat Race

Rat Race

Directed by Jerry Zucker

(Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Lovitz, Seth Green, John Cleese)

Rated: PG-13


Who let the rats out!? Director Jerry Zucker unleashes the hilarity in his new ensemble comedy Rat Race, although he is not the first to open this particular door. Rat Race is roughly based on the 1963 film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, where four people try to get to a dead convict’s hidden cash.

Instead of a dead convict, Rat Race has a very lively casino owner, Donald Sinclair (an eccentric, fake-grinned John Cleese). He initiates the game, spurring a slew of random people to get to a New Mexico train station by any means necessary in order to nab the $2 million stashed in locker 001. The reason? His high-rollin’ clients need something new to bet on.

Rat Race, filled with the familiar faces of Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Lovitz, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Seth Green, joins a rising number of films entertaining a huge ensemble cast of comedic actors, each having equal roles and their own side of the story to portray. A recently successful trend, the ensemble comedy owes its rise to films such as American Pie, America’s Sweethearts or any of Woody Allen’s pictures. Luring in moviegoers with familiar names and faces, these ensembles have a number of characters with whom audiences can associate.

Physical humor and situational irony construct the foundation of laughs in Rat Race. Straying from the overly-done gutter humor of recent films, Rat Race brings the comfort of knowing that you won’t feel odd sitting next to your 10-year-old cousin.

Zucker creates humor out of situations such as a Jewish family driving Hitler’s Mercedes Benz into a World War II Veterans’ Picnic. Waiting to see what the high rollers will wager on next is another highlight of this comedy. Still, some jokes and situations that have the potential of being funny fail to be. Having Owen Templeton (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) stuck driving a bus filled with Lucy Ricardo look-a-likes seems like a promising joke at first, but becomes hard to stomach after the third chorus of Lucy’s trademark “Waaaaaah!”

Vince Vieluf, a fresh face in this stew of well-known acts, stands out as Blaine Cody. With his newly self-pierced tongue, Vieluf’s speech impediment and strange facial expressions are enough to compete with, if not steal, the laughs from Seth Green in the brothers’ scenes.

The movie’s wacky theme is not only shown through the physical humor, but also in the cheesy music selection. Filled with songs like “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and “All Star,” you can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of both the film and these faded hit tunes.

-Brianna Cohen

Rat Race opens today in theatres nationwide.