Rat Race



Vulgar and lowbrow, but very funny.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: May 19, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2001
  • Running Time: 112 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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."

Not applicable
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.

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.

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?


Rat Race 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Brecken Meyers's statement that "Good things take time, but great things happen all at once."

  • 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

Theatrical release date:August 17, 2001
DVD release date:January 29, 2002
Cast:Breckin Meyer, Cuba Gooding Jr., Seth Green
Director:Jerry Zucker
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:112 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:sexual references, crude humor, partial nudity and language

This review of Rat Race was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written byJEDI micah June 8, 2012


This movie is absolutely one of the funniest movies I have ever seen! It's stupid and funny at the same time! This movie is meant for teenagers and adults due to language, some violence, and sexual innuendo. But this movie will keep you laughing throughout the whole thing! I GUARANTEE IT!
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written byMom_and_Son February 10, 2009

Slap-stick lover's HEAVEN!!!

I saw this movie about one month after I turned 13 with my older brother. A few times language was used and brief sex potty mouth type. The average language you would hear in a public elementary school. You will laugh out loud.
Kid, 12 years old November 9, 2008

If you want to Laugh, WATCH THIS MOVIE!

This movie is perfect for a family with teenagers that hasn't laughed in a long time. Though there is some nudity, the wacky story sets up a great family movie night to remember forever. Trust me because I had this experience. I really recommend this movie to all people out there.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide