RAT RACE Add To My Top 10
Morality Eventually Overcomes Greed
Release Date: August 17, 2001
Audience: Teenagers & adults
Runtime: 112 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Director: Jerry Zucker
Executive Producer: James Jacks & Richard Vane
Writer: Andrew Breckman
Address Comments To:Sherry Lansing, Chairman
Motion Pictures Group
A Paramount Communications Company
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
Phone: (323) 956-5000
An eccentric Las Vegas tycoon, Donald Sinclair, played by English funnyman John Cleese, puts six specially minted gold coins in six different slot machines in his casino. The tycoon has concocted a human “rat race” for the six random people who win the coins. Sinclair needs to keep his wealthy high rollers happy. So, he lets them bet on which one of the people will win the $2 million that his associate Mr. Grisham has stashed in a duffel bag 700 miles away in a locker located in Silver City, New Mexico.
A large, diverse cast of comedic actors plays the six contestants and the relatives, friends and acquaintances who travel with some of them. For example, Jon Lovitz plays a family man who drags his wife and two kids on the frantic chase for the money. Whoopi Goldberg is a woman meeting the daughter she gave away for adoption twentysomething years ago. Meanwhile, Cuba Gooding, Jr., plays a professional football referee who steals the uniform of a bus driver taking a bunch of women dressed up like Lucille Ball for an I LOVE LUCY convention. Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart are an attorney and a female helicopter pilot who get sidetracked by her cheating boyfriend (Dean Cain). Finally, Rowan Atkinson, who plays Mr. Bean in TV and movies, is an Italian tourist who hitches a ride with Wayne Knight of TV’s SEINFELD and THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN, who’s rushing a heart to a hospital for an organ transplant.
Among some of the funniest situations these people and the other cast members get themselves into include encounters with an airport radar dish, a cow, a hot-air balloon, a lady selling squirrels to people by the roadside, and a group of Nazi skinheads who own some interesting artifacts from World War II. Furthermore, lest we forget, if you know your I LOVE LUCY reruns, you can well imagine the crying and wailing that happen on the bus among the Lucille Ball fans when Cuba Gooding’s character manages to foul up the trip to the I LOVE LUCY convention.
Regrettably, however, there are a fair number of mostly mild obscenities and one strong profanity in RAT RACE. There is also some crude humor. Some of that humor is lightweight toilet humor or ethnic comedy, but some of it is sexual. For example, when the attorney tries to check out of his hotel room before he gets his coin, he discovers that his bachelor party friends had rented a porn tape from the hotel – several times. The title of the tape has something to do with prostitutes who happen to be African Americans, which embarrasses the straitlaced white attorney further because a black family is standing in line behind him at the reception desk. The attorney repeatedly insists that he did not order the tape, but the desk clerk keeps repeating the title of the tape for everyone to hear. Also, there is an oblique reference to pedophilia when the Italian tourist loses his key to the money locker to a precocious infant. When the tourist tries to get the key back, the child’s parents misunderstand what he’s doing, which gets him kicked off a train.
In addition, nearly all of the characters in this frantic comedy lie, cheat, steal, and do other immoral things to get there first for the money. Most of the time, however, these greedy acts land them in even more trouble. Finally, the story ends on a strong moral note. In fact, in the movie’s redemptive ending, somebody says, “God bless you,” and somebody compares the surviving contestants in the “rat race” to the 12 Apostles. Also, the eccentric, devious tycoon who started it all appropriately gets his comeuppance. Of course, the tycoon probably is the Judas figure in this little morality play.
The ultimate message of RAT RACE seems to be that it is much better to give than to receive. That message is good, even though some of the humor in this movie is not. Apparently, director Jerry Zucker has tried to combine the morality of his previous movie FIRST KNIGHT (a MOVIEGUIDE® Award winner) with the outrageous comedy of the first movie he directed, the trend-setting AIRPLANE. As someone recently pointed out on TV, AIRPLANE is itself reminiscent of another icon from the 1960s, the great TV spy spoof GET SMART.
Nearly all of the characters in RAT RACE lie, cheat, steal, and do other immoral things to get there first for the money. Most of the time, however, these greedy acts land them in even more trouble. Also, the story ends on a strong moral note, in a slightly redemptive fashion. More troubling, perhaps, is some really inappropriate foul language and some crude humor, especially three adult-oriented sexual jokes. There is also some slight ethnic humor, jokes about Wayne Knight carrying a heart for an emergency organ transplant and humor regarding a group of mentally handicapped people on an outing.