Rat Race

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Rat Race Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Vulgar and lowbrow, but very funny.
  • PG-13
  • 2001
  • 112 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 23 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The cast boasts racial and ethnic diversity, but there is some mocking of certain ethnicities, most notably Italians courtesy of Rowan Atkinson. Nonetheless, all characters are equally mocked, sending a positive message of unity and respect wrapped in giddy silliness. Many characters are willing to scheme and steal to beat out their rivals, but such scheming usually meets comic comeuppance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All of the characters are lovable (though not very realistic), and generally very sympathetic. At the movie's end, all the characters are called upon to make a difficult, self-sacrificing choice and all opt to do the right thing.


Near-constant and sometimes tense cartoonish violence, with many car crashes, a helicopter accident, a monster truck coming within inches of crushing two characters, etc. No one actually gets hurt, however.


An escort is summoned to a hotel room and an unusual erotic situation is priced; a woman flashes a man on the highway and we see her breast from the side; there are numerous references to cross-dressing and several to a racist-sounding porn movie. A woman lands a helicopter on her ex-boyfriend's hot tub as penance for him cheating on her.


Lots of colorful phrases: "What the hell?" "Son of a bitch!" There's also potty humor, as when one young child says she has to go #2 so bad she's "prairie dogging."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few scenes take place in bars, and characters buy each other drinks. One man feeds his family over-the-counter sleep meds to keep them out of the way.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byImaBratt August 30, 2019

It has the F word in it

Very funny overall but full of curse words and inuendo
Adult Written byfonzieg March 29, 2015

A few laughs in Zucker's lowbrow comedy!

Jerry Zucker, one of the crew that brought us The Naked Gun, Airplane, and Hot Shots, brings us this comedy that is truely, only occasionally funny! There are... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old July 11, 2020

Funny movie that says "LMAO" all over the place

This movie is the funniest movie I've seen.

It'll be sure to make you laugh.
Kid, 10 years old April 15, 2020

Has curses

Has middle finger which is a inappropriate finger but good

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy

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