Rat Race

Directed by Jerry Zucker
Starring (alphabetically): Rowan Atkinson, Kathy Bates, Lanei Chapman, John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jr., Seth Green, Wayne Knight, Jon Lovitz, Breckin Meyer, Kathy Najimy, Amy Smart, Vince Vieluf.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual references, crude humor, partial nudity and language.

Review by Eugene Kopman <eugene@filmhead.com>
August 28, 2001

If you've ever seen It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), you'll see that Rat Race is pretty much a remake, even though it is not advertised as one. First off, God bless you for sitting through the 3 hours of Mad World. I assure you, this film is much shorter, but just like it's predecessor, it starts off with a funny cartoon introducing the cast and a song to go with it.

Here's the premise: rich Las Vegas casino owner Donald Sinclair (John Cleese) recruits six teams of people by putting a gold coin in six different slot machines, and whoever gets the coin gets to participate. The object of the game is very simple: there are $2 Million in a locker at a train station in Silver City, New Mexico; whoever gets there first, gets the $2 Million.

Let's meet our teams.

Team One: Duane and Blaine Cody (Seth Green and Vince Vieluf), two brothers looking for a quick way to get rich by pulling scams. It is obvious that Duane is the brains of the two, and Blaine can't talk well because he has pierced his own tongue. The two try to pull every trick in the book to get to the money, including breaking down an airport antenna to stop all the flights when they can't get tickets. Seth Green is one of the better young actors in Hollywood today and pretty much carries the scenes with the duo. Green and Vieluf have great chemistry and make their scenes work.

Team Two: Nick Shaffer (Breckin Meyer), an aspiring lawyer who has never taken a gamble in his life. He wants to go home to Chicago after a bachelor party and doesn't want to play the game. He meets Tracy Faucet (Amy Smart), and when Nick finds out she's a helicopter pilot, he offers her half the money if she flies him to Silver City. The only scene that made me smile with the two was when Tracy, while flying over her boyfriend's house, catches him cheating on her and decides to run him down with her helicopter. Amy Smart might be good looking, but she doesn't have a good sense of comic timing. Breckin Meyer isn't that great either, but he does help her along.

Team Three: Vera Baker (Whoopi Goldberg) and her long-lost daughter whom she met in Vegas, Merrill (Lanei Chapman). Merrill owns her own cosmetics company and thinks that the two have more chances then anyone because Merrill has her own private plane. The two also run into the Squirrel Lady (Kathy Bates), who "helps" them along. Vera is a na´ve woman and Merrill is tough and competitive; they make a good team and had me laughing in a few of their scenes, but I have seen Whoopi do better.

Team Four: football referee Owen Templeton (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who went to Vegas to forget the horrible call that he made during a coin toss at a game that lost a lot of people some good money. On his trip, that and a bus full of Lucille Balls haunt him. His best moment was when he was convincing the Lucys' bus driver to give him his clothes, but there were other scenes with him to make me laugh. Unfortunately, the whole Bus-full-of-Lucy's got annoying very quickly.

Team Five: Randy Pear (Jon Lovitz), a Home Depot employee who came on a family vacation with his wife Beverly (Kathy Najimy) and their two kids. He lies to them, saying that there is a job waiting for him in Silver City, so that he could join the race. On the way to Silver City, he is forced to stop of at the Barbie museum (it is NOT what it seems), makes his daughter poop out the car window to save time, and rolls in on a World War II veterans' celebration. It might not seem funny reading it, but believe me, the whole theatre was laughing.

And last but not least is our Team Six: an Italian tourist named Enrico Pollini (Rowan Atkinson, a.k.a. Mr. Bean), who has to be the funniest character in the movie. His problem is, he is narcoleptic, which proves to hurt him at the end. As soon as he leaves the hotel, he is hit by Zack (Wayne Knight), an organ courier, who is going to Santa Fe to deliver a heart and offers to give Enrico a ride because he felt bad for hitting him. On the way, they decide to look at the heart, which spawns another great scene. By saying, "It's a race, it's a race", Enrico actually manages get to Silver City. Atkinson is funny at everything he does, and this movie is no exception.

John Cleese is hysterical as the rich hotel owner who bets on pretty much anything he can think of. The best character, in my opinion, is John Lovitz, who delivers the best line in the movie about his job in Home Depot. With an ending as unpredictable and funny as It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Rat Race is one of the funniest movies I have seen this summer.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Rat Race (2001)

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