Goofy Road Trip Movies: Rat Race Review
Rat Race (2001) has long been a favorite movie of mine for some inexplicable reason. I think it’s all the slimy underhandedness and just the right amount of Jon Lovitz that does it for me. I even own the dang thing on VHS, which currently sits in a movie rack collecting dust because I’ve been able to find it on Netflix whenever I’ve been dying to see Cuba Gooding, Jr. in cowboy attire. But I digress.
The point is, I’m a big fan of this seemingly unfunny movie. So when I was asked to produce a Rat Race review for our road trip movies series, I jumped at the chance.
Before I can even begin to delve into the plot of Rat Race, let’s go over the characters—because there are a lot of them.
- Donald Sinclair (John Cleese) is an eccentric millionaire in Las Vegas who stows a duffel bag full of two million dollars in a locker at a train station in Silver City, New Mexico. He gives six contestants (or in some cases, groups of contestants) the chance to race each other from his hotel to the duffel bag, while he and his rich friends bet on who will get there first.
- Harold Grisham (Dave Thomas) is Sinclair’s assistant.
- Enrico Pollini (Rowan Atkinson) is a narcoleptic and oddly eccentric loner.
- Randy Pear (Jon Lovitz) is a father and husband who hates working at Home Depot.
- Beverly Pear (Kathy Najimy) is Randy’s wife.
- Kimberly Pear (Jillian Marie) is Randy’s daughter.
- Jason Pear (Brody Smith) is Randy’s son.
- Duane Cody (Seth Green) is a scheming, little rat, out to make a quick buck.
- Blaine Cody (Vine Vieluf) is Duane’s brother, who has just pierced his own tongue.
- Nick Schaffer (Breckin Meyer) is a rational man who doesn’t take risks.
- Tracy Facuet (Amy Smart) is an irrational helicopter pilot.
- Owen Templeton (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is an NFL referee who has just made a bonehead call flipping a coin.
- Vera Baker (Whoopi Goldberg) is a mother who has just been reunited with her long-lost daughter.
- Merrill Jennings (Lanei Chapman) is Vera’s daughter and a tough businesswoman.
Also included in the cast are Wayne Knight as Zack Mallozzi, Kathy Bates as The Squirrel Lady, Paul Rodriguez as Gus, Brandy Ledford as Vicky the hooker, a bunch of random women as Lucille Ball, Gloria Allred as herself, and Smash Mouth as, well, Smash Mouth. No, honestly, look:
Seriously, how could you not love this movie?
I run the risk of writing a 2,000+ word Rat Race review if I don’t get to the point, so here’s a basic plot synopsis, in as few words as possible (plus a few more):
Donald Sinclair places six tokens in random slot machines in his casino that invite the winners to a luncheon, where he reveals to said winners (Enrico, Randy, Duane and Blaine, Nick, Owen, and Vera and Merrill) that he has locked up that aforementioned duffel bag and gives them all a key to the locker. All the winners are in shock as he tells them that the first one there keeps it all and then shouts, “Go!” eventually firing a gun to signal the start of the race.
The six contestants leave the luncheon thoroughly confused, all admitting that they do not intend to actually go after the alleged money. Moments later, however, it’s a mad dash as they grab their families and friends and take off toward Silver City, foiling each other at every twist and turn.
Meanwhile, Donald Sinclair and his friends spend the day betting on silly things, like how much Vicky the hooker would charge for a Pepto Bismol party with Donald’s assistant, Harold. The ultimate bet, of course, is who will reach the money first.
The contestants’ hijinks throughout the day get them into all kinds of trouble along the way. Following are each winner’s shenanigans throughout the film:
- Enrico, the narcoleptic, falls asleep within the first minutes of the race and doesn’t wake until hours later. After being hit by ambulance driver, Zack, he hitches a ride in the ambulance until he accidentally loses a transplant heart out the window. Escaping the wrath of Zack, Enrico hops onto a moving train in one of the least credible (of the very unbelievable plot) parts of the movie. The train takes him to Silver City’s station first, but he falls asleep with his key in the locker.
- Duane and Blaine destroy an airport radar, which grounds all flights. Taking to the road, they decide to replicate the key and split up, giving them a better chance at winning. The attendee making the key overhears their plan and runs away with their key, trying to escape by hot air balloon. Duane chases him down, inadvertently tying a cow to the hot air balloon, and gets the key back. But luck is not on the brothers’ side, as they accidentally drive into an outdoor monster truck rally. Before being crushed to bits, they hijack a monster truck and head to Silver City.
- Owen catches a cab since the airplanes are grounded, and his cab driver reveals he is very mad about the outcome of the football game for which Owen made the terrible call. When the cab driver realizes who he is, he strands him in the desert. Owen sees a tour bus driver in a bathroom and pretends to need his uniform for his wife who is giving birth outside, then steals the tour bus, posing as the new driver. The bus is full of I Love Lucy fans, who are dressed like Lucy and eventually topple the bus over. Owen runs away, steals a scarecrow’s clothes (after taking off the bus driver uniform), and hops on a horse to make toward Silver City.
- Vera and Merrill plan to take Merrill’s private jet, but when the airlines go down, they decide to drive. When they don’t buy a squirrel from a crazy squirrel lady, however, the lady gives them directions that lead them off a cliff into a pile of cars. After stumbling through the desert, they find a gathering of people getting ready to watch a rocket car break the land speed record. They climb inside and steal it. When they get out of the super fast ride, they are mistaken by a group home for mental patients and put on a bus for crazy people that lands them right in front of the train station.
- Randy Pear tells his family that he must drive to Silver City (during their family vacation) for work, but his wife insists that they all go. After forcing his daughter to, uh, “drop the kids off at the pool” out of a moving car window, his wife demands he take the kids to the Barbie Museum that they pass. It turns out, the Barbie Museum is dedicated to Klaus Barbie, a Nazi. Because Duane and Blaine destroy their car while they are inside the museum, the Pears, a Jewish family, steal Adolf Hitler’s own Mercedes-Benz sitting outside. When Randy accidentally flips off a biker gang, they attack the car, which leads to him crashing the car and smashing his mouth against the steering wheel (which is coated in lipstick, giving him a Hitler mustache). The incident also sees Randy swallowing a cigarette lighter (yes, really), which causes him to mumble so poorly that it sounds like he is speaking German, which is unfortunate, as they have crashed into a group of World War II vets with Hitler’s car. After escaping, Randy drugs his family and loads them into a strange man’s semi-truck bound for Silver City.
- Nick is the only one who decides not to pursue the money, but when all the flights are grounded and a girl he meets at the airport, Tracy, reveals that she is a helicopter pilot and can still fly, he tells her that his sister is suffering from a shark bite in Silver City and asks for a ride. Along the way, however, Tracy sees her boyfriend cheating on her in a pool, so she hunts him down in her helicopter. After crashing, they steal her boyfriend’s truck, which gives them trouble as they make their way to Silver City.
As luck would have it, they all arrive at the same time and find Enrico asleep at the locker. They throw the locker door open but realize that the money has disappeared.
At this point, it becomes obvious that Vicky the hooker and Harold have stolen the money, but just as they are getting away, the hot air balloon, still with the cow dangling from the basket, swoops by and catches the duffel bag. The contestants all team up and commandeer a double-decker bus, which Owen drives, as they chase down the hot air balloon.
They finally catch it, but it is on a stage for Feed the Earth, where Smash Mouth is hosting a fundraiser. Together, they all decide to donate the $2 million to hungry children across the globe.
Rat Race Review
First, let me give you a minute to process all that. Done? Good.
So—is the movie flawed? Yes. Are some of the jokes lame? Of course. But was I laughing my ass off and totally shocked by the ending? Abso-freaking-lutely. (I mean, come on, never once have I anticipated an ending to a movie wherein Smash Mouth convinces twelve greedy people to give away $2 million.)
Honestly, the characters are fun, conniving, and desperate, yet entirely endearing. Watching their stories intertwine is amusing, and the heartwarming, though slightly forced, ending is one that I can smile at.
I would absolutely recommend this movie to anyone looking for something of little substance but full of laugh-out-loud, early 2000s humor.
And, because this is a road trip movie review, here’s a list of all the modes of transportation used in this zany film:
- Zack’s ambulance
- A super fast train
- The brothers’ Ford Bronco
- The brothers’ rental car
- A hot air balloon
- A monster truck
- A cab
- An I Love Lucy tour bus
- A horse
- Merrill’s car
- A rocket car
- A mental institution’s bus
- A family van
- Hitler’s Mercedes-Benz
- A semi-truck
- A helicopter
- Tracy’s boyfriend’s truck
- A double-decker bus
Timothy Moore takes his leadership inspiration from Michael Scott, his writing inspiration from Mark Twain, and his dancing inspiration from every drunk white guy at a wedding. When Tim is not writing about cars, he’s working on his novel or reading someone else’s, geeking out over strategy board games, hiking with his pooch, or channeling his inner Linda Belcher over beers with his friends. See more articles by Timothy.