Rat Race (2001)

rat race

“Eh, they’re always pissed, Honey. They’re Nazis. It’s like it’s their job.”

The Scoop: 2001 PG-13, directed by Jerry Zucker and starring John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Seth Green, and Jon Lovitz

Tagline: 563 miles. 9 people. $2 million. 1001 problems!

Summary Capsule: A group of highly deranged individuals brave desert sun, cow snot, and Smashmouth concerts for $2 million.

PoolMan’s rating: My kingdom for some writing!

PoolMan’s review: So let’s say you’re me. After you get used to the beard and the vertigo, you’re sitting down to enjoy a movie with friends. After a heated argument with the girls about whether to see that magical new Anthony Hopkins flick or some comedy that the guys could act like chimps in front of, they finally cave for once, and agree to see that ensemble comedy you’d heard so much about. It’s a rare triumph for the men to see what we want, so you really start to hope that the movie you fought so hard for is good so that you can win future arguments with such flawless logic as “Remember when we saw Mystery Men, and you laughed when the black kid was naked? This is kinda like that sort of movie!”. Sadly, you get something like Rat Race, and from then on you’re only allowed to watch movies featuring one or more of the Fiennes brothers.

Aw man, such a great premise, so badly wasted. Rat Race really does have a great cast to start with. Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, Seth Green, Cuba Gooding Jr, Jon Lovitz and more practically wage war with each other to occupy the screen. The driving force behind the story is Cleese’s character, a whacked out millionaire, offering a group of randomly chosen strangers plucked from his casino a chance to race to a secret location. First place, $2 million. Second place, nothing. He then goes about betting with other nutjob rich men on who will win the race.

So we have a solid bunch of comedic actors, a solid, if carefree, premise, and a couple of hours of running time. Surely this equals mad success, right? Eh, not really. The movie gets quickly bogged down with a whole bunch of tasteless and often confusing scenes. Occasionally the joke works (watching a frazzled Jon Lovitz get turned into Hitler takes a loooooooooong setup, but the payoff is great), but more often than not you’re left either disgusted with a person getting splashed in the face with cow mucus or confused with why a squirrel-selling Cathy Bates would send travellers to their doom. God, I wanted to find this movie funny, but it just dragged and dragged… by the time the group has reached the finale, you’ve really stopped caring who wins.

Urgh… the flick’s not terrible. The individual performances are pretty fun (the Italian version of Mr Bean was neat to watch), but the whole package is not really all that great; it should have been better than it was. Now please, get out of my body, I’m really not comfortable with you scratching there…

Canuck Alert! Dave Thomas of Strange Brew fame cameos here as Cleese’s straightlaced butler. He’s from Ontario. Ohn-TAYR-ee-oh.


Andie’s rating: $350,000 to $2 Million? Inflation’s a bitch.

Andie’s review: Browsing at the videostore the other day, I decided that I should check out Rat Race. I really enjoyed the original, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and I like a lot of the actors in Rat Race. What I discovered is “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World as rewritten by 14 year old boys and the Farelly Brothers.” (Sometimes I think the Farelly Brothers ARE 14 year old boys). Anyway, Rat Race really disappointed me because, while I didn’t expect it to be as good as the original, I did think it would be pretty funny. Some parts were, but they were overshadowed by the gross/unfunny parts.

The whole thing with the cow? Yuck. All I could think when I was watching that was “Poor cow.” And the thing with the heart being sent for a transplant? Double yuck. That wasn’t funny to me at all, it was stupid and gross. And I’m sorry, I know a lot of people think Mr. Bean is the funniest person alive, but I do not find him amusing at all. He’s a weird, creepy little man who was so annoying in Rat Race that I wanted to shoot the TV everytime he came on the screen. I mean, honestly, I could’ve written Rat Race better. I think it needed to be more like Mad World and less like Pootie Tang or Osmosis Jones or any of the countless horrible movies that are out on video right now.

That being said, Rat Race did have its moments. I think Jon Lovitz is a very funny man and pretty much every scene with him and his family cracked me up. The whole mix-up with them thinking they’re going to the Barbie Doll museum and ending up at the Klaus Barbie Nazi Criminal museum was hilarious! And then they steal Hitler’s car!!!! That provided me with lots of giggles, especially when the family finds Hilter’s harmonica and Eva Braun’s glasses and lipstick in the car. And even though it is SO politically incorrect, I could not stop laughing when Lovitz, looking just like Hilter because of a lipstick gag, crashed the WWII Vets convention. It’s horrible, but I thought that joke was awesome. I also really liked Seth Green and Vince Vieluf as the two moron brothers, especially since Vince’s character just got his tongue pierced and the only person who could understand a word he said was Seth Green.

Whoopi Goldberg and her daughter were annoying, I wasn’t crazy about them. Cuba Gooding Jr was funny, but all the Lucys were really obnoxious. I liked Kathy Bates as the squirrel saleswoman and I thought it was so funny how she sent people crashing down a hill if they didn’t buy a squirrel. Gotta love those crazy backwoods loonies! I liked Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart together, especially when she decides to pay her boyfriend a visit and finds him in flagrante delicto with Charlene and goes completely ballistic on his truck. That was a great scene. And I absolutely adored John Cleese in this movie. He was perfect as a crazy old millionaire and every time we got to see what he and his millionaire friends were placing bets on, I about lost it. The “what’s inside the chocolate candy” bet and the “how long can the maids hang from the curtains” bet and the “how much will a hooker charge to shave Dave Thomas’ butt in a jacuzzi full of pepto bismol” bet. That was pretty funny stuff.

So overall, I was disappointed in Rat Race. That’s not to say I didn’t laugh, because I actually did laugh a lot. But if a movie is going to have such smart moments that make me laugh, it shouldn’t ruin those by having dumb/gross moments. The dumb moments are for the people who loved Ace Ventura and hated American Beauty and can’t believe I liked Moulin Rouge and who, when they come into Blockbuster, I want to beat upside the head with a bat. But I digress. Rat Race. Eh, if you feel the spirit move you, check it out. But don’t expect much.

Kyle’s rating: It needed more Enya

Kyle’s review: I’m a little surprised this movie isn’t as well-loved as I seem to think it should be. I identified as a rental from the start but now having seen it I would have loved to see some of the visual payoffs on the big screen. Because as far as I’m concerned, this was one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a while!

Of course, it helps to have a sense of humor as dark and twisted as mine to really appreciate all the twists and turns and things you don’t really see in this movie. There’s a bit of toilet humor, madcap violence, an overall zaniness and a surprising yet delightful humorous focus on largely inappropriate topics, like Hitler and the Holocaust, body piercing, a total breakdown of common civility, and mentally challenged individuals. I was pretty surprised at the range of literal and figurative targets in this film, and the facts that everything ties together and works just as planned would make me give “props” even if I didn’t like the story. But I really do!

So as a lone positive voice, let me plead with you to give Rat Race a chance. It’s not the most overblown or overbearing of movies (which is good) and if you don’t pay close attention a lot of the payoffs and foreshadowing won’t make sense to you (which would be bad). But if you’ve got some time, you’re willing to laugh, and you find Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart as charming as I do (aw, they’re so cute!) then go swipe your video card for Rat Race. Jon Lovitz, you’ve done some whack stuff in the past but for that whole Hitler schtick, you are forgiven!

Barbie =/= Klaus Barbie
Barbie =/= Klaus Barbie


  • The end credits claim that “No animals were harmed in the making of this film, only actors were harmed in the making of this film.”
  • I (PoolMan) didn’t mention It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World even ONCE during my review!
  • Amongst other things, the wierd millionaires side bets include how long maids can hang by their fingers from curtain racks and how much it will cost Dave Thomas to have his bum shaved by a hooker in a hot tub full of Pepto Bismol.
  • Smashmouth makes their way onto their 255th movie soundtrack this year! Seriously, these guys are EVERYWHERE!
  • Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart were last seen together in Road Trip
  • The start of the movie has caricatures of the main cast members walking around and interacting with the credits.

Groovy Quotes

Jason Pear: That’s the kind of car that I’m getting.
Bev Pear: Don’t count on it.
Randy Pear: Because the Volkswagon Beetle was made by the Nazis.

Jason: You just stole Hilter’s Mercedes Benz!
Randy: Yeah, well, Hitler had it coming.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
  • Road Trip
  • Mr. Bean

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