Rat Race (2001)

(In theaters, August 2001) The premise isn’t fresh (strangers in a contest to find a huge amount of money; think Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.) but it’s fresher than most recent so-called “comedies” in recent memory. The end result isn’t totally satisfying, but it’s a pleasant diversion. You might be attracted to the film for its cast, but in the end, it’s two near-unknowns (Brecklin Meyer and Amy Smart) who will keep your interest, as John Cleese and Whoopie Goldberg simply go by the numbers and Rowan Atkinson grates nearly every time he’s on screen. (I still can’t say anything even remotely nasty about Seth Green, though.) Not every plot thread is equally funny, but they all have their moments. The gags are good an plentiful, but what’s most interesting about them is the intricate build-up of outrageousness, often sustained throughout several minutes as a funny situation steadily gets funnier. That Hitler gag… oh my… (The bets placed by the bored millionaires are also a steady hoot) The conclusion has the problem you’d expect, as the script tries semi-successfully to find a way to make everyone win. Much like the viewers, who’ll enjoy it equally, but not completely.

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