Tag Archives: Amy Smart

Rat Race (2001, Jerry Zucker)

If you had told me there was a movie with John Cleese in funny fake teeth and Smash Mouth as a plot point (a positive one), I don’t know I would’ve believed it. But if there is going to be a movie with John Cleese in funny fake teeth and Smash Mouth as in a positive cameo… it’s going to be a movie like Rat Race. Rat Race is a big budget situation comedy masquerading as a madcap comedy adventure. Cleese is a Las Vegas casino owner who sends six or seven or twelve random people on a race from Vegas to New Mexico. Whoever gets there first gets two million dollars. Little do the contestants know Cleese has arranged the whole thing as a bet for a group of high owners at the casino.

Though it wouldn’t matter much because the stuff with Cleese and the high rollers is just for interlude gags.

The main race contestants are Cuba Gooding Jr. and Jon Lovitz. Maybe not in screen time (but maybe in screen time, it’s not worth counting), but definitely in extreme gags. Gooding at one point has stolen a charter busload of “I Love Lucy” Lucy cosplayers and Lovitz kind of kidnaps his family to go on the race with him (he doesn’t tell them about the race because he’s Jon Lovitz and it wouldn’t work if he wasn’t a liar). Then there are the couples. Breckin Meyer is a pointlessly straight-laced young lawyer (his character details don’t matter at all) who gets helicopter pilot Amy Smart involved in the race; he’s crushing on her, she’s not crushing on him. Whoopi Goldberg was at the casino to meet long-lost daughter Lanai Chapman; not long-lost but Goldberg gave her up for adoption. Again, the character details don’t end up mattering at all. Once the couples are paired, they’re paired. Like idiot brothers Seth Green and Vince Vieluf (who apparently dropped his agent for not getting him more face time on Rat Race promotional material, but should’ve sued him for letting him do the role, which has him suffering from an infected tongue ring piercing and unintelligible the whole time—Andy Breckman’s screenplay never goes cheap or obvious when it can do both at once). Green’s the weasel, Vieluf’s the dumb lug. Evil George and Lenny, basically. They talk about splitting up for about a half hour of the film’s near two hour runtime but never actually get around to it. Breckman’s script also has its red herrings to fill runtime.

Because somehow it matters Rat Race goes on for near two hours? Like the runtime is going to give it legitimacy.

The last contestant is Rowan Atkinson, who appears to have done Rat Race in yet another attempt to breakthrough in the Colonies. Snideness aside, Atkinson’s great. Everything he does is great. Even when it’s in his dumb subplot involving jackass ambulance driver Wayne Knight and a transplant heart.

Rat Race is kind of a catch-22. The subplots are so bland, you need someone as bland as Meyer do one of them. And, frankly, Smart too. They’re both middling. She’s a little better, but only because Meyer’s unable to appear to listen or think. Green and Vieluf do a lot of terribly executed, large scale physical humor. Director Zucker isn’t necessarily really bad at the giant sight gags, it’s just he’s using CGI and it’s poorly done. And Thomas E. Ackerman’s photography is bad. It’s more often less competent than competent. So you don’t care Green and Vieluf are one-note because the scenes are so perfunctory, even when they’re effective. Zucker’s got a couple good shots in the movie—establishing shots for the large-scale sight gags—and they’re the same shot. It’s like he has one good shot, but only two opportunities to use it. The rest of the time… middling direction.

Cleese too. He’s really funny. Especially with those fake teeth. But it’s a movie where the joke is John Cleese in some obviously fake fake teeth.

Dave Thomas has a really small part and, much like Atkinson, is able to get away successful. Goldberg isn’t bad, she’s just not successful. The movie ditches her and Chapman pretty quick, after one really funny sequence.

Gooding and Lovitz are both… inoffensive, while managing to also be the least sympathetic characters in the film. Maybe because Gooding’s supposed to somehow be inherently sympathetic because he’s a victim of unfair public shaming and because Lovitz is supposed to be saddled with an annoying family (wife Kathy Najimy wants to see David Copperfeld instead of gamble and spend time with husband Lovitz because… harpy?; the kids are just annoying, but end up being sympathetic because Lovitz is… Lovitz). I already said Atkinson is great. Who else is there… Green and Vieluf. Vieluf’s more likable than Green and probably better. Green just mugs.

Last thing. The music. Not the Smash Mouth performance, which sucks, but the “score” by John Powell, which reuses familiar classical ditties like In the Hall of the Mountain King and some also La Traviata. Trust me, you’ve heard the music. Probably in television commercials because it’s effective music. Just culturally rote. And that music ends up in some big set pieces, so it’s unclear what Powell’s actually bringing to the film other than making it sound consistent with a television commercial.

Rat Race is cheap and obvious but occasionally funny and usually inoffensive.

And Atkinson is exceptional.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Jerry Zucker; written by Andy Breckman; director of photography, Thomas E. Ackerman; edited by Tom Lewis; music by John Powell; production designer, Gary Frutkoff; produced by Sean Daniel, Janet Zucker, and Jerry Zucker; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Cuba Gooding Jr. (Owen Templeton), Jon Lovitz (Randy Pear), Rowan Atkinson (Enrico Pollini), Breckin Meyer (Nick Schaffer), Amy Smart (Tracy Faucet), Seth Green (Duane Cody), Vince Vieluf (Blaine Cody), Whoopi Goldberg (Vera Baker), Lanei Chapman (Merrill Jennings), Kathy Najimy (Beverly Pear), Wayne Knight (Zack Mallozzi), Dave Thomas (Harold Grisham), and John Cleese (Donald P. Sinclair).


RELATED

Advertisements

Mr. Stache (2011, Jac Schaeffer)

Mr. Stache is a little like a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, if they did good ones. The whole thing is done in summary, narrated by Kali Rocha. She sort of sells it—the film’s actually at its best when she, the narrator, starts talking about her own experiences and not the content of the film.

Otherwise, it’s just this genial comedy of acceptance. It’s absurd and relatively pointless, but Schaeffer does a decent job directing the Panavision frame. If there were some product placement, it’d be a great commercial.

Unfortunately, the short also wastes its two leads. I have no idea if Rich Sommer is a good actor. He has one line not dubbed over by the narration and it’s an absurd one. Amy Smart fares a little better, because she actually gets to act even when not speaking.

I think Mr. Stache is supposed to be precious.

It’s not.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Jac Schaeffer; screenplay by Schaeffer, based on a story by John Nash; director of photography, Keith Dunkerley; edited by Tamara Meem; music by Andrew Kaiser; production designer, Kyle Kannenberg; produced by Jennifer Glynn and Schaeffer; released by American Express.

Starring Rich Sommer (Mr. Stache) and Amy Smart (Mrs. Stache); narrated by Kali Rocha.


RELATED

Crank (2006, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor)

I don’t usually see films released by Lionsgate. I wouldn’t say I boycotted them, but I don’t take them seriously enough to bother. I started watching Crank because the trailer looked amusing and I do like Jason Statham, whose career goal is apparently never to be in a film funded by a major film company. Statham’s a reasonable enough actor and he’s a good action star. Except Crank is actually the worst made film I can remember seeing. It beats everything in terms of incompetence. But I guess it really isn’t incompetence, because if the filmmakers intended to make a video game into a movie (something David Fincher once said he was trying to do, I think about Fight Club), they’ve sort of succeeded. It’s just an incomprehensible video game.

Crank opens with the title in old video game–arcade days–font, then moves into Statham’s point of view for a few minutes while it establishes its story. This film uses Google Maps (with the Google Maps tag onscreen) as a story-telling device. It has multiple frames on screen at once, but then attaches these frames as textures to walls in other frames. It’s incoherent and stupid. Every third word is a expletive, not for any good reason, but because the writing is so laughable.

Also, it’s not exciting. Jason Statham drives around a lot and yells at people on his cell phone (which gets really good reception). I know the guy’s inevitably going to die–it’s part of the agreement for watching the film–but if you want him to die, well, it doesn’t quite work… shock of shocks.

Unfortunately, Crank didn’t totally tank at the box office and it’s doing well on video (which signals the end days more than a nuclear holocaust would), so it’s possible the morons who made it will make some more films. But they’ve really achieved something with Crank–it’s probably the most worthless action movie I can think of.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor; director of photography, Adam Biddle; edited by Brian Berdan; music by Paul Haslinger; production designer, Jerry Fleming; produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Richard S. Wright, Skip Williamson and Michael Davis; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Jason Statham (Chev Chelios), Amy Smart (Eve), Jose Pablo Cantillo (Verona), Efren Ramirez (Kaylo), Dwight Yoakam (Doc Miles), Carlos Sanz (Carlito), Jay Xcala (Alex) and Keone Young (Don Kim).


RELATED

Blind Horizon (2003, Michael Haussman)

Okay, here’s a hint: if your choice of titles are Blind Horizon and Black Point, go with Black Point. Black Point isn’t a good title for Blind Horizon, which might be an impossible-to-title film, actually, but Blind Horizon has nothing to do with the film. There are no poignant horizon shots and Val Kilmer isn’t blind in it (though I assumed he was).

Blind Horizon is a decent little film though. I had, of course, hoped–given Neve Campbell and Kilmer in the film–I’d get a family drama. Instead, Blind Horizon is an amnesia thriller. Since it was Val Kilmer and I rarely eighty-six a Val Kilmer movie (it’s happened, though, it’s called Hard Cash), I stuck with it. Certain aspects of the film are incredibly predictable–it’s a thriller, after all–but there are also some nice moments and some nice twists that I didn’t get until I sat to consider them.

Sam Shepherd’s in it and he’s good (but Shepherd’s always good, he just plays the same guy) and Amy Smart’s really good in it. Though I’ve seen a couple films she’s acted in, I try to avoid her films like the plague. But she’s good. Actually, Blind Horizon has a lot of nice performances, particularly Noble Willingham–who you’ve seen before, but never in a role like this one. Fortunately for the film–which makes no sense whatsoever–these strong performances carry everything through.

I still want a Kilmer/Campbell family drama. It’d be nice.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Haussman; written by F. Paul Benz and Steve Tomlin; director of photography, Max Malkin; edited by Quincy Z. Gunderson and Alain Jakubowicz; music by Machine Head; production design, Richard Hoover; produced by Tucker Tooley, Randall Emmett, George Furla, Heidi Jo Markel and Vincent Newman; distributed by Lionsgate Films.

Starring Val Kilmer (Frank), Neve Campbell (Chloe), Sam Shepard (Sheriff Kolb), Noble Willingham (Deputy Cash), Amy Smart (Liz), Gil Bellows (Dr. Conway), Giancarlo Esposito (J.C. Reynolds) and Faye Dunaway (Ms. K).