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Rat Race

1

Before the Farrellys and, more significantly, the Wayanses, there were the Zuckers. Zooming into view in 1980 with the Towering Airport-Quake spoof Airplane!, the Zuckers saved Hollywood comedy dual-handed. Packed with stupid sight gags, daft running jokes and idiot one-liners, their fresh, funny movies paved the way for the recent slew of proud-to-be-dumb US teen movies.

Which ought to bode well for Jerry Zucker's `re-imagining', as Tim Burton might say, of the all-star '60s screwball caper It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. But before we get too excited, let's take a look at the cast. The original starred Jimmy Durante, Spencer Tracy and Ethel Merman - - the old Hollywood equivalent of Steve Martin, Harrison Ford and Barbra Streisand. But who do we have here? Rowan Atkinson, Jon Lovitz and Whoopi Goldberg, to shame but three.

Disastrously, the entire plot has been sanitised for no good reason. The original saw a dying gangster leave clues to the whereabouts of stolen loot. This lame update simply has six groups of people being used as human racehorses, which isn't such a big deal in this post-Big Brother world, especially when they're greedy enough to debase themselves for $2 million anyway. And once they're off the leash, this frantic but rather flat farce just degenerates into a mish-mash of slapstick interludes, which pass by with the zen-like unfunniness of Mel Brooks' jaw-droppingly awful Men In Tights.

It seems unnecessarily cruel to dwell on the worst performances, although Atkinson's shockingly lazy `Señor Bean'-style comedy foreigner can't pass without comment. It's a measure of this hammy, insincere romp that Jon Lovitz is wasted and you find yourself waiting for Road Trip's Amy Smart and Breckin Meyer to hit the screen.

If you can stomach the cheesy title sequence, you may enjoy it, but anyone who digests the ker-ay-zee rock'n'roll closing credits must surely have the constitution of an ox.

Verdict:

It looks funny, it sounds funny, everybody in it obviously thinks it's funny but, amazingly, this tame, creaky, overdone skit is totally lacking the funny chromosome. There are more laughs in Battlefield Earth. Or Schindler's List, for that matter.

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