Rat Race

Rat Race. Alphaville Films/Zucker Productions 2001.
Rat Race. Alphaville Films/Zucker Productions 2001.

Before watching the movie:

I’m fairly sure this is the movie I recall coming out at a time when I was too young to be interested in it, but I thought that it was a few years earlier, like 1997 or 98. Still, I definitely remember the title, nothing with that title came out in the 90s, and the summary is about what I remember.

I was surprised by the star-studded cast. Most of them are people I wouldn’t have heard of in 2001, but I know now are big names. I’m not sure if I knew any of them other than Whoopi Goldberg and Cuba Gooding Jr. at the time. I guess I knew of John Cleese and Rowan Atkinson, but I didn’t know they were in this movie.

I also just found out this is vaguely based on It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, which make sense, because it reminds me of “The Amazing Race” and that movie. Hopefully, it will have better pacing than “Mad World”, which dragged a bit at times from having to support so many characters and generally being long enough to be the only nonmusical film I know of with an intermission.

After watching the movie:

Six people at The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas receive a special token from the slot machines, which grants them entry into a special, secret race run by the casino’s owner, Donald Sinclair for the high rollers to gamble on. Each of them receive a key to a locker in the Silver City, NM train station, which they are told contains a bag filled with two million dollars for the first person to reach it. With no rules, each of them goes to outrageous lengths to get the money.

It seems like the bigger the name, the smaller the part. John Cleese facilitates the bet on the race, but doesn’t have much to do. Rowan Atkinson’s eccentric, surprisingly Italian character falls into narcoleptic sleep for a large chunk of the movie. Cuba Gooding, Jr. spends most of his time on a bus full of Lucys. The plot spends most of its time with Breckin Meyer (before I think he really got to “It’s That Guy!” status), Jon Lovitz (I can’t think of anything he’s actually known for other than Saturday Night Live), and Seth Green (just on the cusp of when he really made it). Meyer’s plot carries the emotional component, Lovitz has some of the most absurdly hilarious moments, and Green’s segments carry the brunt of the physical comedy.

I was vaguely reminded of The Tournament when I read the summary of the film, but I hoped the movie itself would be less like it than I expected. Instead, it really reads like a family version of “Tournament” where the “kill the other contestants” part is removed. But then, “Tournament” is built largely on top of The Running Man and Battle Royale, so there are some very broad tropes at work here. Still, it felt more like “Tournament” than “Mad World”, thanks to the game elements added to it.

This film ends on a more upbeat note than “Mad World” did, but it’s still true to the spirit of it. I hadn’t really thought of Sinclair as a villain, but he gets his karmic due. Some of the people making it to the end seem more far-fetched than others, but of course they had to all meet up because that’s how these stories work, and logic has nothing to do with this plot, just fun.


Watch this movie: With popcorn and a “B-lister Bingo” sheet.

Don’t watch this movie: Looking for Spencer Tracy and the Big W.

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