review for Rat Race on AllMovie

Rat Race (2001)
by Michael Hastings review

Director Jerry Zucker's joyously dumb, slaphappy riff on It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World garnered some unfair criticism upon its release: How dare they tamper with a classic? But truth be told, the 1963 source inspiration for Zucker and screenwriter Andy Breckman was overlong, underwritten, and more than a little bloated, despite its who's-who cast of early-'60s comic geniuses. Much like the original, Rat Race is only as good as whomever's onscreen at any given moment. But unlike Mad, Mad World, it's about an hour shorter, meaning that if an actor's particular schtick or vignette falls flat, there isn't a long wait until the next. Luckily, there's an abundance of funny bits: As the architects of the treasure hunt, John Cleese and Dave Thomas have a bevy of unpredictable running gags; Cuba Gooding Jr.'s misadventures with a busload of Lucille Ball impersonators plays much better than the previews might lead one to believe; and Jon Lovitz's tour in Hitler's convertible is appropriately, ridiculously convoluted. Best of all, Rowan Atkinson's turn as a bumbling Italian tourist can only be described as a dead-on parody of Roberto Begnini's particular brand of over-earnestness. Zucker doesn't bring any discernible style or flair to the proceedings -- the movie looks about 15 years out of date, something that couldn't be said of the wide-wide-widescreen Cinerama original -- but he does bring with him his impeccable sense of comic timing.