Rat Race

Director:Jerry Zucker
Writer:Andy Breckman
Paramount Pictures; PG-13; 112 minutes
Cast:Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jon Lovitz, John Cleese

Remember the 1963 cash-dash comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World? Rat Race is its spiritual stepchild, a similarly frantic and surprisingly good-spirited comedy that pits ordinary people in a chase for easy money.

Eccentric millionaire Donald Sinclair (John Cleese, sporting some of the whitest teeth you've ever seen) gathers a half-dozen random folk in his Las Vegas casino and gives them all a key. It will open a locker in a New Mexican town only 563 miles away. The locker contains $2 million in cash. The first person to get it can keep it. Without a moment's pause the movie is off on a silly, almost classically slapstick rush. Gaudy, yes, but a good gaudy.

Sinclair and his friends are secretly wagering on the contestants, of course. There is simpering family man Randy Pear (an excellent Jon Lovitz), washed-up NFL referee Owen Templeton (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), recently reunited mother and daughter (Whoopi Goldberg and Lanai Chapman), and a narcoleptic Italian (winningly played by British comedian Rowan Atkinson). All this activity is directed by the man behind Airplane and Ghost, Jerry Zucker. Rat Race runs with zany, lighthearted fun.