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No Subtext Allowed

The big, dumb all-star chase comedy returns in the guilty pleasure Rat Race.



The timing behind reviving the epic all-star chase comedy is pure satirical brilliance, when you stop to think about it. Rat Race follows in the footsteps of such sprawling, slapstick, bigger-is-funnier efforts as It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and The Great Race of the ’60s, but think about the significance of the contemporary context. In this age of the twin obsessions with celebrity and reality television, what more incisive commentary could one offer than showing the humiliating extremes people will subject themselves to for one huge payday, then heightening the voyeurism by making those people movie actors? Add Rat Race’s subtext of high rollers wagering on the chase’s outcome and you have …

Cinema New This WeekAll the President’s MenThe story that toppled a president and deluded an entire generation into believing journalism was sexy and exciting. Opens August 17 at the Jordan Commons Classics Series. (PG)American Outlaws[not yet reviewed]Because two Young Guns movies weren’t enough to forever turn you off to the entire Western genre. Opens August 17 at theaters valley-wide. (PG-13)Captain Corelli’s Mandolin[not yet reviewed]WWII-era drama with Nicolas Cage as a reluctant Italian soldier stationed in occupied Greece and romancing Penélope Cruz. Yeah, life’s really tough, Captain. Opens August 17 at theaters valley-wide. (R)The Luzhin Defence[not yet reviewed]John Turturro and Emily Watson star in what is likely the only period romance set in the world of world-class competitive chess. Opens August 17 at the Tower Theater. (PG-13)The Man Who Cried[not yet reviewed]The adventures of a WWII-era Russian emigrant (Christina Ricci) as she tries to avoid having a romance with Nicolas Cage. Opens August 17 at the Tower Theater. (R)The Neverending StoryA bookish lad learns the power of fantasy through the wisdom of freakish mutant Muppets. At Tower Theater Midnight Movies, August 17-18. (PG)Rat Race HH1/2See review this page. Opens August 17 at theaters valley-wide. (PG-13)Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine HHYou know, I feel for Bahman Farmanara. The Iranian director was forbidden by government censors from making a film in his native country for over 20 years, losing the best years of his artistic life. Does that mean he needed to turn the film he finally did get to make into a massive pity party? Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine finds Farmanara playing an Iranian filmmaker who—what are the odds—also hadn’t been allowed to make a film in his native country for over 20 years. The film essentially plays out as a woe-is-me meditation on mortality, with “Bahman” the character facing constant reminders of his lost youth and imminent death as he prepares a documentary on Iranian funeral rituals. Every once in a while, Farmanara shows a mordant sense of humor about life’s absurdities, like the technical glitch that robs him of his pre-paid burial plot. Too often, though, he dwells on his own difficult life to a somewhat embarrassing degree. Even sadder than waiting half your life to make another film is finally making that film and having it be little more than a purgative self-help therapy session. Plays August 22 at Tower Theater One Night Stands, 7 p.m. (NR)—SRCurrent ReleasesAmerican Pie 2 HHHSee review p. 32The Others HH1/2There’s a nice throwback vibe to The Others, a thriller for those who prefer haunted house movies with atmospheric spookiness to computer-generated booga-booga. Too bad it ultimately succumbs to the contemporary obsession with twisty-turny plots. Nicole Kidman stars as an Englishwoman circa 1945, caring for her two light-sensitive kids in a big dark house while her husband is MIA in France. Director Alejandro Amenábar amps up the tension with menacing whispers and slamming doors, while tacitly promising an eventual character-based psychological payoff. That makes it kind of a bummer when the payoff never materializes. The whole film becomes a machine—albeit a well-oiled machine—designed to pull you along to the climactic revelations. It may be too smug about pulling out the rug, but at least it doesn’t club you over the head. (PG-13)—SROsmosis Jones HH1/2Fantastic Voyage meets There’s Something About Mary by way of Looney Tunes in the jumbled, silly, sporadically amusing Osmosis Jones. In live action directed by the Farrelly Brothers, slovenly zookeeper Frank (Bill Murray) is nagged by his young daughter to live a healthier life. Meanwhile, inside Frank, a teeming cellular City of Frank unfolds in wild animation, with Chris Rock voicing a cop/white blood cell battling a deadly virus with the help of an earnest cold pill (David Hyde-Pierce). The animated portions teem with goofy marginalia, extending the body-as-city metaphor in more (and more clever) ways than seems possible. But eventually we’re obliged to return to the life of Frank, where the Farrellys are hamstrung by family sentimentality and a PG rating. On the microscopic level, Osmosis Jones is a blast; outside Frank’s skin, ironically, is where it feels cramped. (PG)—SRRush Hour 2 HH1/2The LAPD’s finest (Chris Tucker) and the pride of the HKPD (Jackie Chan) team up again for entertaining kung-fu-fightin’ comedy. The best fun here is watching Tucker, whose bug-eyed ferocity lends an unorthodox spin to what could have been a straight leading man’s role. Det. James Carter just isn’t very nice at heart, and that’s how most of the fun arises when he vacations with his old buddy in Hong Kong. They get caught up in a bombing and counterfeiting farrago that sets up laughs and high-kicking with equal facility. Chan’s stunts are solid—though there’s no show-stopper—and Zhang Ziyi is frivolous fun as one of the litany of villains. There’s an overall element of sameness even beyond normal sequel-itis, but that’s not a terrible thing. There’s nothing here you don’t expect—and just about everything you do. (PG-13)—GB Original Sin HApparently sensing a need for more theatrically released soft-core porn set in 19th-century Cuba, director Michael Cristofer made this straight-faced attempt at a sexy noir. It’d be hilarious, if it weren’t so sad seeing all these people taking it so seriously. Based on a Cornell Woolrich story but bereft of the author’s mysterious foreboding, it’s the story of a big-time coffee planter (Antonio Banderas) who gets a mail-order bride from Delaware (!)—but Julia (Angelina Jolie, with latex paint on her tattoos) isn’t what she seems. Both actors never sell their period parts, and the script isn’t much more than a bunch of labored references to obvious noir plot devices. Even the copious sex is less original than a Red Shoe Diaries episode. Antonio would have been better off with Darva Conger. (R)—GB The Princess Diaries HHIf Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman) has to make movies, I suppose this is the arena in which he can do the least harm. The Princess Diaries is one of those innocuous live-action films Disney used to make in the ’70s, a Cinderella tale about a geeky San Francisco teenager (Anne Hathaway) who learns that she’s heir to a tiny European monarchy. Like a first-grader in a 60-year-old body, Marshall smothers everything he touches in sickening sweetness, but since this is a big bowl of Frosted Flakes to begin with, you scarcely notice. It’s a silly, sluggish endeavor, but Hathaway makes a perky heroine, Hector Elizondo is typically reliable and it’s nice to see Julie Andrews again, even doing broad reaction takes. Hey, if it keeps Marshall away from so-called “grown-up” films, so much the better. (G)—SRPlanet of the Apes HH1/2Humans get beaten down once again in director Tim Burton’s entertaining, strangely tame re-imagining of the 1968 chimp camp classic. From virtuoso makeup man Rick Baker to an army of set and costume designers, unbelievable energy is devoted to building a better simian—the better to torment marooned astronaut Mark Wahlberg. The monkey suits are fantastic, and the apes’ world is an evocative, dystopian wonderland. Burton has always valued mood over plot, however, and the storytelling strides he made in Sleepy Hollow have been lost. He seems so set on deploying his surprise ending, he forgets to set it up with something we can sink our teeth into. The dialogue grates, the plot doesn’t move beyond an Escape-from-Apeland vibe, and it’s simply hard to suppress a chuckle at Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Roth wearing chimp costumes, no matter how serious they may be. (PG-13)—GB Jurassic Park III HHJurassic Park III represents the inevitable slackness that results when a franchise hits its third go-round, but it also proves how dangerous it can be to show up just a few minutes tardy for the latest visual party. Sam Neill returns as tour guide for another trip to dinosaur-infested territory, with an emphasis on running and screaming. Director Joe Johnston does a passable job of filling Spielberg’s shoes, but it’s not his fault that, as new and improved as the dinos might be, this is still the third time around. It’s tolerable, time-passing thrill ride filmmaking as we’ve come to expect it, with thrills that aren’t quite thrilling enough. In an age where state-of-the-art lasts about fifteen minutes, you’ve got to do more to capture imaginations that have been there, and seen that. (PG-13)—SRAmerica’s Sweethearts HPhonier than Billy Crystal’s hairline, this is one of the lowest points ever in cinema’s most masturbatory genre: movies about movies. Julia Roberts and John Cusack, both looking confused and embarrassed, play the sister/personal assistant and estranged husband, respectively, of movie star Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones). They’re all headed to a media junket where a publicist (Crystal) will attempt to mislead the entertainment press about their relationship. Vain, cheap, artificial, clumsily made and utterly charmless, it’s every bad thing you’d expect from a film written by the malevolent Crystal and directed by out-of-touch studio boss Joe Roth. The usually wonderful Cusack has never been worse, while Roberts has nothing to do. Unlikable and unwatchable in every aspect, America’s Sweethearts tells a tedious story about tedious characters. If you can find one funny line, you’re Crystal’s real sweetheart. (PG-13)—GBThe Score HHHThe Score is a heist thriller stripped down to sinew and bone, with characters sketched just enough to set up the centerpiece theft. Cast the best actors of three generations—Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton and Marlon Brando—in those roles, and you see how much can be done with very little. The plot treads the familiar ground of Weary Veteran doing One Last Job with Young Upstart, but the cast’s collective charisma makes nearly every scene more fun than it has any business being. Add deft direction by Frank Oz that keeps the action crackling along, and you’ve got a simple (but never simplistic) genre pleasure. The third act twists prove fairly arbitrary, but there’s so much good will built up by that point that even the random “gotchas” inspire a grin. Every acting clinic should be this entertaining. (R)—SRLegally Blonde HHHReese Witherspoon brings her unnervingly smooth charm and good looks to an amiably silly comedy about a California princess who decides to get her boyfriend back by following him to Harvard Law School, where she discovers brains she never knew she had. The film’s bouncy charm easily skips over the rough spots in a script that doesn’t have a lot of punch lines, but knows how to put Witherspoon in excellent spots to exploit her charisma. As the terminally happy but surprisingly sharp Elle Woods, she’s a high-comedy counterpart to her immortal Tracy Flick from Election. This film isn’t as good, but Witherspoon is the best part of both. (PG-13)—GB Scary Movie 2 HHDirector Keenen Ivory Wayans steps back up to the money trough with a 90-minute series of parodies and satirical interpretations of a huge chunk of the last few years’ popular culture. Again, it’s a slice of life with doomed heroine Cindy (Anna Faris) and her crew of dimwit friends, including Wayans’ brothers Shawn and Marlon. The Wayanses make much more facile, interesting films than the majority of what’s done in Hollywood, and the family’s commitment to goofball vulgarity in these family-friendly, PG-13 times must be supported. But their charms are sorely tested as the collective dumbness and broadness of this film’s humor builds. The result is neither scary nor a movie, but it’s not the worst possible way to spend an evening. (R)—GB Kiss of the Dragon HH1/2Jet Li doesn’t have the charisma of Chow Yun Fat or Jackie Chan, but he might be the biggest badass to come out of the East since Bruce Lee. His action scenes in this otherwise dull and convoluted revenge-fantasy picture approach the stuff of legend, thanks to plenty of help from director Chris Nahon and an army of capable opponents. Li’s showmanship and acrobatics are the stuff that’ll have you grabbing the armrests in excitement. If you like to watch guys fight instead of talk, this is your film. (R)—GBCats & Dogs HHHCat fanciers, beware—man’s best friends are clearly the good guys in this family action-comedy about a high-tech war between human-loving dogs and megalomaniacal cats. The feline-philic good news: As is often the case, the villains are more interesting than the heroes. Evil kitty mastermind Mr. Tinkles (hilariously voiced by Will & Grace’s Sean Hayes) and his minions steal the show from their cuter, cuddlier, duller canine counterparts. And fortunately for viewers of either pet persuasion, there’s enough appeal in the cats’ naughtiness and the technical ingenuity of the action sequences to make up for sappy, sloppy family sentimentality. Making surprisingly clever use of CGI wizardry, it’s the kind of film where a doggie version of the United Nations is called to order by running an electric can opener. Score one for the dog people. (PG)—SRA.I. Artificial Intelligence HHHA strange “collaboration” between the late Stanley Kubrick and director Steven Spielberg, this story of a robot boy’s quest to become human is in every way its parents’ child—alternately sentimental and chilly, affectionate and disturbing, always visually breathtaking. By all rights, A.I. should disintegrate as Spielberg jams two radically different styles into one package, grasping for greatness while delivering something massive and frequently unwieldy. It’s also a deceptively simple fairy tale, which is why it remains powerful even through its identity crises. Spielberg’s attempts to twist himself into Kubrick’s sensibility create something uniquely fascinating in film history. Like its young protagonist, A.I. is a meticulously crafted engine imparted with a soul, full of wonder yet never entirely sure where it’s going next. It’s a sprawling work of occasional genius desperately in need of medication for bipolar disorder. (PG-13)—SRDoctor Dolittle 2 HIt’s a sequel to one of the drool-down-your-shirt dumbest comedies made in recent years, yet it manages to be even dumber, less funny and more precious. Eddie Murphy balances his checkbook as the doctor who talks to the animals. He’s facing big conflicts: at home with his daughter, and in the woods with a bear who must mate with a circus bear in order to save a forest from being cut down to be turned into press packets for crappy movies. The animals, voiced by a phalanx of second-tier celebrities, have nothing funny to say, and Murphy appears to be bored stiff. Under no circumstances should you allow your dog to talk you into seeing this. (PG)—GB The Fast and the Furious HH1/2Style beats substance by a nose with a great title and good aim by director Rob Cohen, who doesn’t aspire to anything more than making a bad movie about dumb guys, phenomenal cars and hot girls. A crime drama and a love story set in a romantic view of underground Los Angeles street racing, it maintains the illusion of competence long enough to slide between some impressive races and stunts for dudes who love cars. Jordana Brewster, who looks like Demi Moore before the three kids, romances Paul Walker, who looks like Harry Hamlin before nobody cared. Her older brother, played ferociously by Method man Vin Diesel, oozes charisma and very nearly makes us care. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer knows how to give good formula, and he does it yet again. (PG-13)—GBLara Croft: Tomb Raider HIt’s easy enough to hate Tomb Raider because it’s loud, stupid and incoherent. Better still to hate it for being another soul-deadening exercise in crass commerce that sneers at you for being foolish enough to buy crap in a recognizable wrapper—and it’s not even competently executed crap. Never mind that it predictably lacks a story or interesting characters; director Simon West can’t even paste together a decent viscerally satisfying set piece. Apologists may defend it with the “exuberant vacuity” argument—i.e., it’s garbage, but it’s unpretentious garbage that only wants to leave the audience “entertained.” But no one involved in making Tomb Raider worried about entertaining the audience, since it didn’t have to be any good for people to show up. Sooner or later, the audience for this kind of film is going to have to say, “Game over.” (PG-13)—SRAtlantis: The Lost Empire HHHDisney won’t sell nearly as many plush toys and lunchboxes out of this non-musical, non-anthropomorphized-animals adventure, but Atlantis still scores with more energy and fun than most live-action summer fare. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) guide the tale of a mild-mannered scholar (voiced by Michael J. Fox) leading an expedition full of quirky characters to find the fabled undersea continent. Far from the smoothest narrative ride the Mouse House has concocted, Atlantis still boasts tremendous visual style, a handful of rousing action sequences and a hilarious supporting performance by Don Novello (erstwhile Father Guido Sarducci) as a deadpan demolitions expert. And while the lack of music makes it feel emotionally slight, it’s nonetheless a satisfying tale in the spirit of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea—all with nary a singing, dancing crab in sight. (G)—SRMoulin Rouge HH1/2In a cinema landscape littered with pre-packaged “product,” something as gleefully audacious as Baz Luhrmann’s aesthetic bouillabaisse makes you want to do cartwheels at its mere improbable existence. When the cartwheels are finished, you’re left to confront the reality of its uneven execution. Luhrmann crafts his “boy-meets-girl in 1899 Paris” story into an operatic melodrama with a soundtrack of instantly-recognizable hits, and when he lets individual songs soar, the effect is intoxicating. There are also too many moments when the film plays like a Rolling Stone trivia contest, nudging you with each successive pop reference before dashing off to the next visual whirlwind. Moulin Rouge shows off the gaudy excesses of its setting and the gaudier excesses of Luhrmann’s self-indulgence. When it’s not exhausting, it’s exhilarating. And vice-versa. (PG-13)—SRThe Animal HHH Finally, there’s another throwaway lightweight comedy worth our time and our $2. Rob Schneider isn’t as smart as Mike Myers or as dementedly inspired as Adam Sandler, but this piffle about a meek cop named Marv who gets in a car wreck has a good bit of invention and a whole lot of enthusiasm. Marv gets animal organs implanted into him after the wreck, and he develops a potpourri of animal “powers” that lead to dozens of permutations. There are enough funny gags to keep the film going, even when somnambulant Colleen Haskell (Survivor) shows up as his love interest. First-time director Luke Greenfield is confident and quick with the comedy. It’s crude, but not ridiculously so, and it’s got several hard laughs. It’s no Happy Gilmore, but at least it’s in the same kennel. (PG-13)—GB Pearl Harbor HH1/2Director Michael Bay’s romanticized epic comes as a good history primer to a generation so woefully uninformed that a recent contestant on Street Smarts thought Pearl Harbor was in Florida. But don’t expect Pearl Harbor to achieve on the same level as Saving Private Ryan. That film succeeded masterfully because it told a simple story with such brutal honesty and realism that you felt you had a stake in its well-drawn characters. Unfortunately, Bay tries to do too much with his film, packing into its three-hour running time all the expected conventions. He wants it to be a little bit Titanic, a little bit Top Gun and a little bit major war epic. Despite the film’s noble intentions, it is standard and predictable fare. The subject deserved a far, far better film. (PG-13)—MD Shrek HH1/2 DreamWorks’ latest attempt to make a cartoon both for kids and their parents succeeds in making one that shouldn’t quite satisfy either party, but won’t disappoint too much, either. It’s the story of an ogre (Mike Myers) who agrees to save a princess (Cameron Diaz) from a dragon (Michael Eisner … no, not really) in order to regain his privacy. The filmmakers seem to take their greatest pleasure in poking plenty of fun at Disney, DreamWorks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg’s former employer. In doing so, they deconstruct plenty of the preciousness surrounding the animated musicals that have soiled the screens for a decade. But when that’s all over, Shrek runs out of things to do until the standard ending. Eddie Murphy is entertaining as Shrek’s sidekick, Donkey, and the computer animation reaches new standards of pointless reality. Still, such a light-hearted, pleasant little film can be no more or less than a diversion … and that’s probably just fine with the iconoclastic ogre. (PG)—GBA Knight’s Tale HH A poor squire (Heath Ledger) becomes a jousting phenomenon in this period piece deliberately sprinkled with non-sequitur modern references, like the ’70s rock soundtrack. The result is meant to be hip and different, but the film is so predictable and its actors so middle-of-the-road that we don’t get a thrill from much except the jousting action around which the film centers. Writer-director Brian Helgeland seems to have written the most formulaic script he could muster, then sprinkled it with as many strange quirks as possible, hoping to somehow disguise what he’s selling while still giving his dumber viewers what they want. Those who come wanting a Rocky-in-armor story will get it, while everybody else will wish they could shove that wooden pole up Helgeland’s ass. (PG-13)—GB The Mummy Returns HHHA profoundly corny, unabashedly old-school romp through the Saturday serials of filmmaking’s golden age, with all the bad dialogue and wide-eyed special effects that entails. Writer-director Stephen Sommers has an eye for sweeping images and a brain for epic plots, and he puts both to work in a thoroughly pleasing sequel to 1999’s surprise smash hit. Adventurers Rick and Evie O’Connell (Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz) are out to save the world from Imhotep, who’s been raised from the dead once again. From Egypt to London and back again, we’re bombarded with fantastical images amid a sure-footed story. The anachronism is the draw, and this film isn’t ashamed to long for less sophisticated moviegoers who will appreciate the wonder of such storytelling. Don’t be ashamed to be one. (PG-13)—GBMemento HHH1/2This detective story is told backwards from the climax, and its form triumphs over a rather pedestrian function. Leonard (Guy Pearce) can’t make new memories, but he knows he’s searching for his wife’s murderer because of the notes, photographs and tattoos he gathers around himself. We watch the evolution of Leonard’s quest rather than the quest itself—making the film a whydunit, not a whodunit. The mental gymnastics required to keep up with the story are worth the price of admission, but writer-director Christopher Nolan also fashions a riveting procedural thriller from his unorthodox devices. Don’t forget to see it. (R)—GB

BWAH HAH HA HA HA HAA HAA … ooh, I can’t believe I got that far with a straight face.

But seriously, folks—subtext, schmubtext. Rat Race is comedy of the jumbo dumbo variety—really, really big and really, really ridiculous. It’s a throwback to an era when the contrivance of ending a film with a massive pie fight (á la The Great Race) didn’t matter, because the point of it all was taking the audience along for as much silly fun as you could cram into two hours. You’d just point a bunch of talented comic performers toward a narrative finish line, wind them up and let them go. Hilarity was bound to ensue at some point—it was the law of averages at work.

A comedy like Rat Race has to keep it simple to work, and simple is exactly what you’ll find. There’s a one-line plot: Six visitors to a Vegas casino each win an opportunity to be first to grab $2 million in cash stashed some 500 miles away. There’s a collection of one-line characters: a pair of scheming brothers (Seth Green and Vince Vieluf); a woman (Whoopi Goldberg) and the daughter she just met after giving her up for adoption years earlier (Lanai Chapman); a sadsack husband (Jon Lovitz) on a family vacation; a straight-laced law student (Breckin Meyer); an NFL referee (Cuba Gooding Jr.) reviled after a blown call; and a narcoleptic Italian (Rowan Atkinson). There is also a sub-plot involving the chase’s eccentric mastermind (John Cleese, wearing frightening horse teeth) and his cronies betting on who gets to be a millionaire, but we’ll try not to hold the inclusion of a sub-plot against them.

Despite a theatrical trailer full of gags involving cross-dressers, masculine-looking women and flying cows, Rat Race isn’t nearly as smugly tasteless as a dozen other lowbrow comedies of the past few years. Screenwriter Andy Breckman isn’t above potty humor—thank him for introducing “prairie dogging” into the pop culture lexicon—but Rat Race relies mostly on time-honored chase antics. Various sundry modes of transportation go really fast, with people either in them, in front of them or in danger from proximity to them.

A lot of the time, it gets you laughing in spite of yourself. Director Jerry Zucker has spent most of the last decade trying to be a semi-serious filmmaker (Ghost, First Knight), but this is one of the guys responsible for Airplane! and Top Secret!, and he hasn’t forgotten his comic chops. While some jokes are duds, the ones that kick off gut-busting chuckles come from a great sense of timing. You’ll guffaw, you’ll feel guilty, and then you’ll guffaw again.

And yet you may feel like you should have laughed a lot more. What Rat Race lacks to put it over that broad comedy edge is a strong sense of character—or, more accurately, a strong sense of caricature. The makers of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and The Great Race realized that when you’re flipping back and forth between half a dozen different storylines, you’ve got to keep the setups for the characters simple. And the closer the characters are to the actors’ already-established personas, the better.

Zucker and Breckman generally seem reluctant to play their Rat Racers over the top, and they use too many actors without the requisite iconic familiarity. Meyer isn’t uptight enough, the brothers aren’t dumb enough, Goldberg and Chapman may as well have been odd couple astrophysicists for all the long-lost daughter setup actually matters, and Gooding is stranded with a busload of Lucille Ball impersonators for reasons it may take years to sort out. Only the performance of unmatched clown Rowan Atkinson seems pitched at the appropriate level of absurdity, and he’s woefully underused.

Still, there’s something vaguely satisfying about Rat Race, largely thanks to low expectations. Part of watching an all-star spectacle like this is waiting for it to implode, collapsing under the weight of its “aren’t we all having a blast making this, and thank you, John and Jane Q. Idiotic Audience Member, for financing it” arrogance (cf. The Cannonball Run). But even when Rat Race falls flat on its face (or recycles Smash Mouth’s “All Star” for the kazillionth time), you never get the sense that it fails out of laziness. From the creatively demented games concocted by Cleese and his gambling cronies to a narrow escape from a monster truck rally, Rat Race keeps churning out the gags as if single-mindedly determined to prove that law of averages. And if, along the way, it manages piercing insight on the nature of American infotainment culture …

Hee hee hee hoooo ho … oh, now don’t get me started giggling again.

Rat Race (PG-13) HH1/2 Directed by Jerry Zucker. Starring Jon Lovitz, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Rowan Atkinson.