Too long, too crowded, and too many gags

Image via Paramount Pictures
Image via Paramount Pictures

A film review of ‘Rat Race’

By JP, Columnist


From the opening credit sequence, with its squeaks, beeps, goofy music, and gags, the comedic level of Rat Race (2001) is firmly established. The overwhelming majority of its humour is gag-based, slapstick comedy, and it can therefore only be recommended for those with low expectations and unintelligent humour.

The premise of the film is that six teams of people are racing from Las Vegas to Silver City, New Mexico to win $2 million in prize money. The whole race is orchestrated by a wealthy Las Vegas casino owner named Donald Sinclair (John Cleese), who is capturing everything on video for the entertainment of himself and his wealthy friends.

It stars a mixed bag of some of Hollywood’s funny faces from the late 1990s and early 2000s, including Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jr., Wayne Knight, Jon Lovitz, Seth Green, and Breckin Meyer. British funnymen Cleese and Rowan Atkinson round out the cast. Disappointingly, Atkinson’s character, that of a clueless Italian man, is possibly one of the weakest in the film. In fact, the film suffers from its own sheer weight. It has too many characters, many of whom have overlapping characteristics.

The large situational build-up comes with a weak payoff. This is shown in the travails of the presumably-Jewish Pear family. Jon Lovitz plays the father, who is trying to avoid telling his wife and two children that they are racing for $2 million. They detour to a Barbie museum, which turns out to be a neo-Nazi museum dedicated to Klaus Barbie. After stealing the museum’s prized souvenir, Adolf Hitler’s car, they accidentally enrage a biker gang and end up crashing into a WW2 veteran’s memorial. The father, having burnt his tongue and ended up with a Hitler moustache from the preceding escapade, ends up acting out a Hitler impression in front of the veterans.

As suggested above, the film is too long. Its constant barrage of slapstick begins to feel never-ending. If the film has any takeaways beyond the silly humour, it is the idea that people are willing to do anything for enough money, mirrored in how Hollywood will throw together almost anything to try to make some money.

This comedy can only be recommended to someone who enjoys lowbrow slapstick humour, including once-prominent comedians, in numbers that dilute their individual talents. It is probably not the type of comedy you will want to watch more than once, even if you do.