"Magic realism" in cinema is a tough thing to do. Most films are either fantasy-based or reality-based; very few are both because it's very difficult for an audience to wander back and forth across the spectrum without winding up frustrated by the mind games. Like Water for Chocolate, Being John Malkovich, and Chocolat come to mind as examples of films with magic realism elements that work. Add Rat to the list. This hilarious modern-day Irish fable is a farce of the first order, with loveable eccentrics -- even their names are filled with wonderful whimsy (Phelim Spratt?) -- and unpredictable action keeping the laughs coming from beginning to end. The Guinness-drinking rat, rendered by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, has all manner of outrageous things done to it by the zany family in this fast-paced, wonderfully bizarre fantasy. Bob Geldof's score is indispensable, and Pete Postlethwaite and Imelda Staunton are terrific in roles reminiscent of the fast-reacting couple played by John Cleese and Prunella Scales in Fawlty Towers. Rat is funny stuff.
by Buzz McClain review