Rat Race (2001)

Money, it is the reason a lot of us get up in the morning, for the meagre opportunity to pay the bills in exchange for gruelling labour. What we wouldn’t do for a chance to grab some security? Some freedom and if 500 miles and five other strangers stood in your way, the risks you would go to secure such stability? In 2001, an oddball mogul created a simple contest, that will send its contestants into the depths of zany carnage, in a homage to the films of yesteryear, in Rat Race.

This trip will produce some unlikely allies, from this star studded ensemble!

When multimillionaire Donald Sinclair and his chums grow tired of conventional games, he gathers six average people and gives them keys. He informs them that these keys unlock a locker in New Mexico that contains $2,000,000 in cash. The first person to unlock said locker gets it all. As soon as each of them leaves, the race is on, with Sinclair et al. betting on the winners. Throughout the journey, the contestants will go to any length and encounter a plethora of seemingly implausible scenarios. Yet one thing is for certain, whoever wins, the results will be hilarious!

The contestants come from all walks of life, yet they’re all desperate for the cash!

The ensemble cast is a substantial part of the draw here, and outside of John Cleese playing hotel magnate Donald Sinclair. John Lovitz has some of the most memorable scenes and exchanges with his family, consisting of Kathy Najimy, and their two children. Seth Green and Vince Vieluf play brothers, one’s a schemer and one with a botched tongue stud. Cuba Gooding Jr plays a disgraced Football referee, while Whoopi Goldberg and Lanei Chapman play a distant mother/daughter combo. Amy Smart plays helicopter pilot Tracy, who has some issues with her ex, and Breckin Meyer plays Nick, whose cynical reluctance to take part quickly subsides when he gains an upper hand. Narcoleptic, Enrico, playing into Rowan Atkinson’s physical talents, helps round off the contestants, with the likes of Dave Thomas and Wayne Knight in the extended cast.

Donald Sinclair, whose name is a homage to one of John Cleese’s most iconic roles, ends up being one of Cleese’s favorite roles.

The deceptively simple road trip turns into a chaotic shambles, as sabotage and random events plague the contestants. Without giving too much away, some of the more outlandish scenarios include A mix-up with an assemblage of I Love Lucy enthusiasts; An eye-opening trip to a Barbie museum; and a lesson in why you should engage in local commerce. It equates to an entertaining scramble, full of memorable moments and quotable lines. The score by John Powell is also top-notch, feeling like a return to the scores of yesteryear. Although modern touches remain, notably a ska-infused theme song, along with a cameo by Smash Mouth towards the end of the film feels apropos to the overarching change in style, the new millennium will face.

Seth Green and Vince Vieluf play ne’er-do-well brothers, whose experience may help them get an upper hand!

Rat Race is a film that more feels like a loving homage to the madcap films of the 20th Century, where a mad mad mad world would go and see big Hollywood draws engage in a Cannonball run. A kind of energy and style that you simply don’t get nowadays, as societal tastes move on as real-world events changed the tone. Rat Race gathers talents from all fields, from Zucker behind the chair, from the likes of John Cleese to Seth Green. The ensemble is quick-witted enough to deliver the gags, both verbal, yet mostly physical, as the jokes come fast. Offering an early 2000s take on a winning formula, Rat Race takes the keys it was handed and runs it into a sure-fire bet. 

No, you aren’t seeing the casting room for Being The Ricardos… just one of the hilarious circumstances in this film.

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