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Introduction
Rat Race is the new crazy comedy from director Jerry Zucker. It has an all-star cast including the likes of John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson and Cuba Gooding Jnr. For that reason you would expect a classic comedy. Well read on and see if the potential of the cast turns the film into an all time classic or just an expensive flop.

Rat Race
Movie
The story for this film is pretty basic to say the least. We are introduced to a string of characters, all of who meet up in a casino. Each of the characters wins a special token whilst playing on the gambling machines. Little do they know that the casino owner Donald Sinclair (John Cleese) has set them up for a little game. The game involves a race to a nearby town where the winner will earn two million dollars. Sceptical at first the chosen players don’t know whether to believe Sinclair, but in the end their curiosity gets the better of them and they decide to go for the winnings. This is where the fun begins as each player in the game does their best to outshine the other contestants.

Before I go any further I will introduce the contestants (teams) in the Rat Race:

Nick Shaffer (Breckin Meyer) – A Successful young lawyer from Chicago who is in Vegas for a friend’s bachelor party. Nick has spent his whole life avoiding trouble.

Tracy Faucett  (Amy Smart) – A sexy, hot-tempered helicopter pilot whom Nick meets whilst at the airport. Nick and Tracy team up together to try and win the jackpot.

Vera Baker (Whoopi Goldberg) - A mother who is trying to make up with her daughter who she gave up for adoption 30 years ago. Her daughter’s name is Merill (Lanai Chapman) and they make up team two.

Enrico Pollini (Rowan Atkinson) who is from Italy - A one-man disaster area… a walking calamity magnet. Pollini has the habit of falling a sleep whilst on his feet which gets him into some funny situations.

Randy Pear (Jon Lovitz) - Is desperate to win the race so he can finally quit his job at Home Depot. There’s only one tiny catch: his wife Beverly (Kathy Najimy) and kids are sick of his crazy get-rich-quick schemes. So Randy can’t tell them why he’s suddenly dragging them to New Mexico.

Owen Templeton (Cuba Gooding Jr) - An embarrassed American football referee who became famous for messing up a crucial call during a NFL playoff game. For this reason there are a lot of people who are not happy with him and he spends most of the film avoiding annoyed football fans.

Duane (Seth Green) and Blaine Cody (Vince Vieluf) - The Cody’s are a pair of con artists. They are the most dishonest pair that you will ever find and will do anything to win the jackpot.

I was expecting great things from Rat Race but was sadly let down. It is marketed as all out comedy, and to be honest it does have its funny moments, but they are too rare. Being a fan of the Cannonball series I was expecting Rat Race to be a 2002 update of the classic Bert Reynolds movies. Sadly it didn’t live up to my expectations on several fronts. Lots of the jokes are simply not funny or too stupid to laugh at. The characters are bizarre and you end up not really caring who wins the race. Saying all that I did quite enjoy the ending but that wasn’t enough to save the film.

Rat Race is more of a rental movie rather then a purchase or cinema viewing. The cast looks good on paper but are totally wasted. What had potential to be a king rat turned into more of a dirty rat!

Rat Race
Video
Rat Race is brought to us in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. During the first ten minutes I was left wondering whether picture quality was supposed to be so grainy. Seeing as this is a new release I presume that it was the intention of the director, as the rest of the film is presented in a near perfect transfer. Colours are vibrant as would be expected and there is no damaged to the print. The end scene is particularly dark and the transfer deals with any quick changes in brightness and contrast. As can be expected with recent releases this transfer is nothing short of excellent.

Audio
Included with this release are English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks. The 5.1 soundtrack provided is perfectly adequate for what is really a dialogue driven movie. The voices are clearly heard from the centre speakers. If I were to moan about any area of the soundtrack it would be the lack of rear speaker action. I think I only really counted three or four occasions when the rear speakers were put to use. One particular scene involving a monster truck race is well executed. Overall I couldn’t really complain about the soundtrack as the balance between the voices, music and background noise is just about perfect.

Extras
Upon looking at the extras available with this release I was very impressed. You only have to look at the back cover to see that every effort has been made to make this DVD the definitive release.

First up is the exclusive interview with director Jerry Zucker and Writer Andy Breckman. This is an eight-minute interview with the director and writer of the movie. They talk about their history and how they look forward to doing some more projects together. The interview is separated with clips from the movie so that you don’t get bored!

Next up are the deleted scenes. The scenes are introduced by Jerry Zucker and are your standard below par scenes that are normally cut from the movie. You can view scene by scene or you can decide to watch them all at once.

‘The Making of Rat Race’ is probably the most detailed extra on the disc and runs for just over twenty-two minutes. The making of contains lots of behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast, who discuss their characters, clips from the film, the director and locations. Rowan Atkinson expresses his like for Las Vegas, which goes against the British opinion of it being tacky. Don’t watch before the film though as it gives a lot away, in fact it gives too much away. The cast also talk about how fun making the movie was. Apparently each day was full of laughs and it didn’t feel like a job.

‘Gag Reel’ - This section is basically a three and a half minute presentation of all the outtakes from the movie. It is actually very funny, and shows that the cast got on very well.

‘Jerry and Andy Call the Actors’ - This is where Jerry and Andy call the actors and you hear telephone conversations between them. There are thirteen actors/actresses included. Some of the interesting conversations are with John Cleese, Seth Green, Jon Lovitz and Rowan Atkinson. This is quite a novel idea, which I haven’t seen before on DVD. The only problem as demonstrated by the extra is that some people are not in whilst phoning. For example they could not get hold of Cuba Gooding Jr. I particularly enjoyed the chat with John Cleese, who talks about how his day is taken up by people who have won his company for the day in a raffle. He also talks about the false teeth he wears in the movie. It is also interesting to find that Rowan Atkinson is a completely different person off screen. He is really down to earth and serious. At first I found this extra to be quite unique and interesting but after a while it gets a little bit tedious and boring. Some of the actors start talking about irrelevant subjects so I found myself fast-forwarding some of the conversations.

‘The Giggles’ is an outtake involving Seth Green and Vince Vieluf. Jerry Zucker introduces the section and says that it is the funniest thing he has seen, but personally I thought it was pointless. There are only so many times I can watch Vince Vieluf say ‘Put the money in the bag’! The outtake lasts for about five minutes so be prepared for lots of reruns! Also worth noting is that the trailer can also be found in the extras section.

The extras on this disc are superb. The disc contains the standard things like trailers and making of documentary as well as original ideas like the telephone conversations. For a single disc release you won’t find much better.

Rat Race
Overall
I was left feeling disappointed with Rat Race. Over the past year there have been very few classic comedies. On paper Rat Race looked like it could potentially be a classic, but a lot of the jokes just don’t hit the mark and either end up being too silly or just not funny. I am not saying that Rat Race doesn’t have its funny moments as it does; it’s just not funny enough! The picture quality and sound are perfectly acceptable whilst the extras are first class. It’s also nice to see a director and producer so enthusiastic about a DVD release. The overall package makes this a good purchase for any fans of the movie.


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