Rat Race is a 2001 American comedy film directed by Jerry Zucker, and stars an ensemble cast featuring Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jon Lovitz, Lanei Chapman, Seth Green, Vince Vieluf, John Cleese, Breckin Meyer, Wayne Knight, and Amy Smart. The story is about six teams of people given a task of racing c. 570 miles (c 915 km) from a Las Vegas casino to a train station in Silver City, New Mexico, where a storage locker contains a large amount of money; the first team to reach the locker wins and gets to keep the two million dollars. Unbeknownst to them, however, they are actually just part of a betting game. Rat Race was inspired by, and had the same basic plot of the earlier film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
Donald Sinclair (John Cleese
), the eccentric billionaire owner of The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino
in Las Vegas
, devises a new game to entertain the wealthy gamblers that visit his hotel. Six special tokens are placed in the casino's slot machines, and the winners of them are gathered together and told that two million dollars in cash are hidden in a locker in a train station in Silver City, New Mexico
. They are told it's a no-holds-barred race to get there first and claim the money. Each winner is given a key that will open the locker and they are sent on their way. Sinclair's patrons place bets on who will win the race.
Vera Baker and Merrill Jennings
The first team is a mother-daughter one. Vera Baker
) went to the casino to meet her adult daughter, Merrill Jennings
). Vera had not seen Merrill since she was put up for adoption
as a baby, and despite tentative feelings they are essentially strangers. Although Merrill is sure that the race is a scam, her mother is excited and convinces her to join the race. They book a private jet, but due to the Cody brothers
, their flight is canceled. They rent a car and while searching for the interstate
, they meet an eccentric woman (Kathy Bates
) who is selling squirrels. When Merrill persistently refuses to buy one (Vera never said if she wanted one or not), the Squirrel Lady gives them directions that, instead of leading them to the interstate, sends them through a group of signs saying "you" "should" "have" "bought" "a" "SQUIRREL" and off a cliff onto a pile of cars. After wandering in the desert, they stumble upon a scientific site and steal a rocket car set to break the land speed record
by masquerading as auto-show models. They zoom through the desert past a gas station, knocking it down in the process (there was also a joke when the gun the station owner was carrying fired and the car matched the speed of the bullet, possibly parodying The Matrix
). When the car runs out of fuel, they are mistakenly placed on a bus bound for a mental hospital
that happens to pass by their destination. They have to hold the hospital's supervisor (Colleen Camp
) hostage to be let out at Silver City.
Duane and Blaine Cody
The two inept Cody brothers, Duane
) and Blaine
). Duane is the "sensible" one, while Blaine mumbles incoherently due to a swollen and badly infected tongue — the result of a self-piercing
gone wrong. They attempt to get rich by faking an injury and suing the casino
. Having discovered that there are no more tickets left to New Mexico, they clumsily sabotage the airport radar
system to prevent anyone from flying to Silver City (by pulling down the radar dish with their Bronco
). They soon decide to split up and go separately to increase their chances of winning, by getting a second key made. They are not very bright, however, and the locksmith rips them off by giving them two unmade keys while keeping the real one after overhearing their plan. A chase ensues with the locksmith trying to escape in a hot air balloon
over a cow pasture, resulting in a cow being snagged by the anchor rope and lifted off the ground. Duane manages to retrieve the key before they both end up thrown into a muddy lake while the locksmith and the cow float away with the balloon. Close to the movie's end, Blaine flirts with a similarly pierced girl who shocks them by ripping her shirt off, showing off her own piercings, causing the brothers to stare at her so long that they run off the road and crash. They eventually end up at a monster truck rally and end up stealing one to drive to their destination.
A much-hated NFL referee
, Owen Templeton
(Cuba Gooding, Jr.
), is accused of making the "biggest bonehead call in the history of football" - when the moment came to toss the coin
for the kick-off
in an important game, Dallas called tails; he acted as if it landed heads and then blew the whistle when the team protested. He is stranded in the desert by an irate cabbie
) who lost a large sum of money due to Templeton's blunder in the game. After wandering in the vast desert, Owen comes across a bus station and tricks one of the drivers into giving him his uniform and hat. The bus is full of Lucille Ball look-alikes
on the way to an I Love Lucy
convention. After one Lucy's wig catches fire due to a discarded cigarette butt, all of the Lucys panic and throw the wig down the bus toilet, causing it to overflow. Cleaner gets poured into the bowl and soap suds are dispensed throughout the bus, even seeping from the windows. After being startled by a transgendered
Lucy and the air-balloon-hooked cow crashing into the bus, Owen struggles to regain control. The bus gets a flat tire. While Owen fixes it, the Lucys roll away the spare and the bus flips over. Owen runs away after they learn that he is not a bus driver. He finds a horse to take him to Silver City. In a deleted scene
, Owen is rescued when a bus of Ricky Ricardo
look-alikes pulls up.
) is on a family vacation with his wife, Bev
), son, Jason
(Brody Smith), and daughter, Kimberly
(Jillian Marie Hubert). Desperate to get rich so he doesn't have to work at Home Depot
any more, he joins the race. Sworn to secrecy by Donald Sinclair, he tells his family that he has a job interview in Silver City for filling ink pens. He is so desperate to get there that he does not stop to allow the kids to go to the toilet, having Kimmie excrete out the window, where it hits a police car. Kimmie then spots a sign saying "Barbie Museum", and Bev insists that they have to stop and give the kids a break. Randy reluctantly agrees. The barbie museum turns out to be a shrine to the Nazi Klaus Barbie
run by neo-nazis
as opposed to a museum about the doll
. The Pear Family, who is Jewish
, flees in terror, only to find their car has been sabotaged by the Cody Brothers. Randy then steals Adolf Hitler
's car from the museum. While the family is mucking around with the various things they find in the car, Randy burns his middle finger on the cigar-lighter and waves it around to cool it. A female motorbiker he didn't notice sees this and thinks he is giving the finger
to her. Randy then mistakenly calls her a dyke
. In fury, the female biker signals and an entire, all-female biker gang appears behind them, and proceeds to smash the car. They drive off the road, and crash into a convention of surviving World War II
veterans. Randy, who burnt his tongue after swallowing the cigar-lighter in the bout with the biker gang and smeared some black lipstick under his nose after trying to grab it from Bev; looks and sounds like Hitler while mumbling in front of the crowd. The veterans are furious, and the family flees. Later, at a gas station, Randy finally confesses to his family why they are really going to Silver City, and reluctantly says he will take them back to Las Vegas. When he notices some sleeping medicines in the gas station shop, he decides that he won't give up, and puts some of the medicine in his family's milkshakes so they fall asleep. He then gets a truck driver to take him and his family to Silver City after discovering that the museum's staff has found the car.
The narcoleptic Italian
tourist Enrico Pollini
), despite being the most enthusiastic about the race, falls asleep for a few hours before even leaving the hotel lobby, much to the frustration of those who had bet on him winning due to his apparent enthusiasm and initial head start. When he eventually wakes up, he gets a ride with a medical services driver Zach (Wayne Knight
), who is delivering a human heart
for a transplant
in El Paso, Texas
. On the way he loses the heart, which is later found badly damaged and dirty. Pollini catches a ride on a train while a desperate Zach contemplates killing Enrico to use his heart as a replacement. Fortunately, Zach grips the electric fence, which acts as a defillibrator and gets the heart beating again. After offering the key to a baby sitting next to him on the train he had been entertaining, the baby loses it while napping. Enrico tries to get it back, only to be fought off by the outraged parents. He is thrown off the train at the Silver City station. Strictly speaking, Enrico is the winner as he reaches the locker first. However, he falls asleep just as he puts in his key. In the film's Italian dub, the character is from England and his name is "Enry McCoglions."
Nick Schaffer and Tracy Faucet
The final race member, Nick Schaffer
), is a straight-laced lawyer and arguably the most intelligent of the racers. At first, he declines to participate, but rethinks his position after he meets Tracy Faucet (Amy Smart
), who is a helicopter
pilot flying to New Mexico. He discovers that Duane and Blaine only damaged the airport's ground radar, so Tracy's helicopter is available and he is the only racer who would be able to fly. While making a detour to drop in on Tracy's boyfriend Shawn (Dean Cain
), they spot ex-girlfriend Charlene's car in the driveway and the two carrying on in an above-ground pool. Tracy unleashes the fury of a scorned woman by collapsing the pool, trashing Shawn's truck and then chasing him in the helicopter. After it develops engine trouble, Nick and Tracy abandon it and take the truck Tracy had tried to destroy a few minutes earlier. They run out of gas and siphon gas from a nearby police vehicle. The sleeping officer inside wakes up and catches them, but is distracted by the Cody brothers speeding past. He is unable to pursue them as the gas has been siphoned out. The truck's radiator conks out and they are forced to stop at a gas station. A maniac mechanic fixes their radiator but overcharges and holds them at gunpoint for refusing to pay. The station is unexpectedly demolished by Vera and Merrill's rocket car, allowing Nick and Tracy to escape to Silver City. At the end of the film, it is Nick who cons Donald Sinclair out of his money.
) is the owner of the casino. He creates the 2 Million Dollar Race for his high roller
guests. During the course of the movie, he runs various smaller (but increasingly daft) bets to keep the obsessive gamblers satisfied whilst waiting for the grand finale, including which gambler will throw up
first on a turbulent airplane, which hotel maid can hold onto the curtains longest without falling, and how much money will a hooker ask for to shave Sinclair's assistant's buttocks in a tub of Pepto-Bismol
while he clips her toenails, all while naked in sailor hats.
When the teams finally reach the locker, they find the money's gone. Sinclair's assistant and Vicky (Brandy Ledford), the hooker mentioned earlier, have fallen in love and decided to go to Silver City themselves and make off with it. The teams pursue them, and finally get the money. They decide to share it equally around. Suddenly, spotlights light up around them and they find themselves standing on a stage at a charity concert fronted by Smash Mouth. The people at the concert think that the teams are donors who are giving the money to the charity. When the teams realize what is happening, their initial reaction is anger as they want to keep the money. Yet in the end, they agree, and put all the money in the charity bag. At the last minute, Donald and his gambler clients turn up, and Schaffer tells the crowd that Sinclair and company has agreed to match all donations dollar for dollar (ironically, Schaffer also tells the crowd that Sinclair 'wouldn't spend the money on some idiotic bet', when in fact, he has done exactly that). The movie ends with the teams crowd surfing while Donald sobs over the rapidly increasing donation ticker and Smash Mouth plays All Star.
- The film grossed $55.8 million at the US box office. The film received mixed reviews from critics resulting in a 43% rating on RottenTomatoes.com.
Allusions and connections
- Lawyer Gloria Allred is featured in two cameos. The first is when she happens to be nearby when a woman trips over a glass meant for Blaine Cody and injures herself, prompting her to decide to take up the woman's case against the hotel. The second is when she is sitting on her balcony when Enrico Pollini is hit by Zack, during which she tries to take up Pollini's case against Zack.
- Sinclair and the gamblers' eccentric gambling habits are even further exaggerated in deleted scenes, where they partake in many more ridiculous bets, including playing Monopoly with real money. In another deleted scene, one of the high rollers pretends to find what they are doing as immoral.
- Pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page and his wife, Kimberly Page had a cameo in the movie that was cut when test audiences failed to give his appearance any reaction. The scene is available on the DVD Release.
- Jerry Zucker's mother, Charlotte Zucker, made a cameo appearance as one of the Lucy women. She is the one who says "You shouldn't be so hard on yourself." during the scene when Owen Templeton reveals he is not a bus driver.
- The film is also notable for its score by John Powell.