A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rat Race is a slapstick comedy in the tradition of Airplane!, with mile-a-minute jokes and lots of absurdity. There are toilet jokes and gross-out jokes, such as when one character vanquishes a rival by shooting him in the face with milk from a cow's udder. There is racial humor, gun humor, and tons of scenes in which fast-moving cars and buses go off the road and careen down hills. There is drinking, gambling, and a scene in which an escort prices a list of odd sexual services. For all this, Rat Race is cheerfully loony and quite funny, with a brilliant cast and enough jokes that if one misses there's another to get you chuckling again. Unshockable parents will enjoy watching this with older kids.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In RAT RACE, casino owner Sinclair (John Cleese) has a plan to attract the really high rollers -- a race between creatures who can think, plan, and lie -- humans. Six randomly selected customers of the casino are each given a key to a box in a Utah train station. Inside the box is $2 million, and the first one there gets it all. The six include Rowan Atkinson as a narcoleptic Italian, Cuba Gooding, Jr. as a disgraced football referee, Whoopi Goldberg as a woman just reunited with the daughter she hasn't seen since she was a baby, Brecken Meyer as a conservative lawyer who always plays by the rules, Jon Lovitz as a father on vacation with his family, and Seth Green and Vince Vieleuf as small-time con artists. Along the way, they meet up with the prettiest helicopter pilot in the world (Amy Smart), neo-Nazis, real-life superlawyer Gloria Allred, a rocket car, a truck driver delivering some very important and fragile cargo, and a bus full of Lucy impersonators. There is a lot of good, old-fashioned, hit-on-the-head humor, but it's like a Road Runner cartoon -- everyone bounces back without a scratch in the next scene, ready to get right back into the game.
Is it any good?
This movie is a loving salute to the spirit of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, a splendid salute to slapstick that featured just about everyone who happened to be in Hollywood in 1965. Rat Race is outrageous, cheerfully vulgar, undeniably lowbrow, and very, very funny. Director Jerry Zucker, shows the sure hand with sight gags that brought us Airplane!. While this one does not have that movie's surreal moments of comic ecstasy, its stronger narrative coherence and more interesting characters make it almost as satisfying.
All of the performances are delights. Kathy Bates's brief cameo as a woman who really likes squirrels and Amy Smart's expression when she dive-bombs her cheating boyfriend (Dean Cain), Vieluf's encounter with his multi-pierced dream girl, Seth Green's encounter with a monster truck rally, and Kathy Najimy's encounter with the Barbie Museum are among the funniest movie moments in years. And the final resolution beats It's a Mad...World by a thousandfold.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea in Rat Race that "Good things take time, but great things happen all at once." Do you believe that?
Why does money make people take such foolish risks? Who were you rooting for? Why?
What's the appeal of lowbrow humor? When does it go too far?
- In theaters: August 17, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: January 29, 2002
- Cast: Breckin Meyer, Cuba Gooding Jr., Seth Green
- Director: Jerry Zucker
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual references, crude humor, partial nudity and language
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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