Rat Race (film)

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Rat Race
Rat Race poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJerry Zucker
Produced byJerry Zucker
Janet Zucker
Sean Daniel
Written byAndy Breckman
StarringRowan Atkinson
John Cleese
Whoopi Goldberg
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Seth Green
Jon Lovitz
Breckin Meyer
Amy Smart
Music byJohn Powell
CinematographyThomas E. Ackerman
Edited byTom Lewis
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • August 17, 2001 (2001-08-17)
Running time
112 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$48 million
Box office$85.5 million

Rat Race is a 2001 American comedy film directed by Jerry Zucker. Inspired by Stanley Kramer's 1963 classic It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the film features an ensemble cast consisting of Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jon Lovitz, Kathy Najimy, Lanai Chapman, Breckin Meyer, Amy Smart, Seth Green, Vince Vieluf, Wayne Knight, John Cleese and Dave Thomas. The film centers on six teams of people who are given the task of racing 563 miles from a Las Vegas casino to a Silver City, New Mexico train station where a storage locker contains a duffel bag filled with $2 million; the first person to reach the locker wins and gets to keep the money.

Produced by Fireworks Pictures, Alphaville Films, and Zucker's Zucker Productions, the film was released by Paramount Pictures on August 17, 2001 in the United States and Canada. It received mixed reviews from critics but was a box office success, having grossed $85.5 million worldwide against a $48 million budget.[2]


Donald Sinclair, the eccentric owner of The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, devises a new game to entertain the high rollers who visit his hotel/casino. Six special tokens are placed in the casino's slot machines and the winners are told that $2 million in cash is hidden in a duffel bag in a train station locker at Silver City, New Mexico, which is 563 miles southeast of Las Vegas. Each team is given a key to the locker and to race to the train station in order to claim the money. Unbeknownst to the competitors, Sinclair's wealthy patrons place bets on who will win. The patrons continue making smaller bets throughout the film while being facilitated by Sinclair's assistant Grisham, who at one point hires an escort as part of a dare.

The racers consist of scheming siblings Duane and Blaine Cody, high-strung businesswoman Merrill Jennings and her mother Vera, disgraced football referee Owen Templeton, the Pear family led by the opportunistic Randy Pear, narcoleptic Italian tourist Enrico Pollini and no-nonsense young attorney Nick Schaffer. At first, they claim that they're not going to play Sinclair's game, but greed slowly takes over most of the racers as they wait for the elevator and start to race. On the way, they briefly consider working together to get the money, but they change their minds once they see Enrico run past them in the staircase.

Unable to get on the earliest flight to Silver City, Duane and Blaine destroy the airport radar with their Ford Bronco, grounding everybody else yet wrecking their own vehicle in the sabotage, prompting them to steal another. The brothers later decide to split up and create a replica key in the hopes of doubling their chances of winning, but the locksmith overhears their plan and makes off with the key in a hot air balloon. Duane and Blaine catch up to the locksmith, leaving him and a stray dairy cow hanging from the balloon's anchor rope. Later, the brothers hijack a monster truck and drive it to Silver City.

Merrill and Vera crash their car after being given malicious road directions by a squirrel seller for not purchasing one of her squirrels. Later, they steal a rocket car which races across the desert until it runs out of fuel. Afterwards, the two dizzily stumble onto a bus full of mental patients headed for Silver City.

Owen becomes stranded in a desert after being kicked out by a taxi driver as revenge for making the bad call at the football game days ago. Upon arriving at a gas station, he finds a bus driver whom he tricks into giving him all his clothes by telling the driver that his wife has gone into labor, before hijacking his bus filled with Lucille Ball cosplayers going to an I Love Lucy convention. On the way, the bus hits the cow dangling from the hot air balloon, causing it to swerve off the road. Owen then has an emotional breakdown and reveals that he is not the bus driver, resulting in the enraged women chasing him for deceiving them. Later, Owen rides a horse to Silver City.

Randy tricks his family into accompanying him in the race by making them think it's a business trip. On the way, the family mistakenly visits a museum dedicated to the Nazi Klaus Barbie where they steal Adolf Hitler's staff car after the Cody brothers vandalize their vehicle. Randy declines to end the trip when his family becomes tired of traveling. He eventually tells them about the cash and they are initially excited for it. When his family later insists on ending the trip again, Randy drugs them with sleeping pills and bundles them into a semi-truck to reach Silver City.

At first, Nick chooses not to participate in the race and instead plans to head back to Chicago, but he changes his mind after he meets a female pilot named Tracy Faucet, who gives him an advantage as she is one of the few pilots who are still able to fly using her non-fixed-wing helicopter. After Tracy uses her helicopter to attack her cheating boyfriend Shawn Kent, she and Nick subsequently hijack Shawn's truck and drive it to Silver City, forming a romantic relationship in the process.

Enrico joins the race seemingly because he is excited to win and does not appear to care about the money itself, but he falls asleep at the start of the race and wakes up hours later. He receives a ride from an ambulance driver named Zack, who is delivering a transplant heart to El Paso. On the way, Enrico inadvertently throws the heart out of the van after Zack opens the icebox containing it. While looking for it in the fields, it gets stolen by a dog which is then electrocuted by an electric fence. Believing that the heart would fail to save the person who needs it due to the holes made by the dog's teeth, Zack decides to kill Enrico and cut out his heart in order to replace the missing heart, prompting Enrico to escape by boarding a passing train headed for Silver City. He is mistaken for a pedophile in the train when he loses his key in a nearby baby's diaper and as a result is thrown out at the Silver City train station where he becomes the first to reach the locker, only to once again fall asleep upon unlocking it.

The racers reunite in Silver City and tackle each other to open the locker, only to find it is empty. Outside, they find Sinclair's assistant Grisham and Vicki, the call girl he hired, making off with the money bag. They lose it when the locksmith ties it to the balloon, only for the three to crash their car. The racers then follow the balloon until it lands at an outdoor charity concert hosted by Smash Mouth. The band and the crowd mistake the money as donation when Enrico inadvertently explains that they decided to share all the money on the bus. The group try to explain that they don't want to donate the money, but once they see the charitable good spirit they have made, they're persuaded to accept. Nick then surprises a horrified Sinclair and his patrons by declaring to the audience that Sinclair and the gamblers will match the amount of money raised. The film ends with the racers dancing to "All Star" while Sinclair cries, distraught over losing at least 19 million dollars.


  • John Cleese as Donald P. Sinclair, an eccentric Las Vegas billionaire and gambling mastermind
  • Rowan Atkinson as Enrico Pollini, a simple-minded narcoleptic Italian tourist
  • Cuba Gooding Jr. as Owen Templeton, a disgraced American football referee now infamous for a bad call
  • Seth Green as Duane Cody, a ne'er-do-well looking to make a buck on insurance scams
  • Vince Vieluf as Blaine Cody, Duane's unintelligible-speaking brother
  • Jon Lovitz as Randy Pear, a sneaky, irresponsible and recklessly opportunist tourist with an imbecilic yet mischievous expression
  • Kathy Najimy as Bev Pear, Randy's wife
  • Brody Smith and Jillian Marie Hubert as Jason and Kimberly Pear, Randy and Bev's children
  • Lanai Chapman as Merrill Jennings, a high-strung businesswoman with some rage issues
  • Whoopi Goldberg as Vera Baker, Merrill's doting and superstitious mother
  • Breckin Meyer as Nick Schaffer, a strait-laced young attorney
  • Amy Smart as Tracy Faucet, a competent helicopter pilot with rage issues and Nick's love interest
  • Dave Thomas as Harold Grisham, Sinclair's well-trodden assistant
  • Wayne Knight as Zack Mallozzi, a medical supply driver with a habit of showing off his deliveries



Rat Race was initially written by Darryl Quarles as a spec script. By February 1999, the script had been sold to Hollywood Pictures and producer Jerry Bruckheimer.[3] In August 1999, Jerry Zucker was in negotiations to direct the film for Paramount Pictures from a screenplay written by Andy Breckman that would be set in Las Vegas, Nevada and in New Mexico.[4]

Paramount hoped to begin production of the film in the end of 1999 or the beginning of 2000. Jerry and Janet Zucker were to produce the film alongside Sean Daniel, while Daniel's partner in Alphaville Films, James Jacks, would serve as executive producer.[4] The filmmakers initially considered having the film's characters race from Las Vegas, Nevada to Las Vegas, New Mexico, but the idea was rejected following concerns that it might confuse viewers.[5]

In January 2000, Las Vegas, Nevada was confirmed as a filming location for Rat Race.[6] Location scouting in southern Nevada was scheduled for May 2000, while filming in the area was delayed until fall 2000, to avoid shooting the film in one hundred degree weather.[7] Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart were cast in the film in June 2000.[8][9] Dean Cain was also among the actors to join the cast.[10][11] Actor John Cleese praised the script as one of only two scripts during his career that he enjoyed: "It's so unusual to get a top-class script. Twice in my life I've had the experience of reading a script and simply saying, 'I'm going to do this.'"[12]


Filming began in the Canadian city of Calgary in August 2000. Filming took place primarily along Calgary's highways, which stood in as highways that the characters travel on in Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. Desert scenes were shot in the Canadian town of Drumheller.[13] Second unit filming began in Las Vegas on August 7, 2000, with scenes primarily involving Cuba Gooding Jr. Scheduled filming locations included the Las Vegas Strip, Tropicana Avenue (east of the Las Vegas Strip), McCarran International Airport, and Nevada State Route 159. Other scheduled filming locations in Nevada included Goodsprings and Sandy Valley.[14]

Scenes involving Gooding and the group of Lucy impersonators were shot in the Canadian Rockies. Jerry Zucker, who had a tradition of including his mother Charlotte Zucker in each of his films beginning with Airplane!, had her portray one of the Lucy impersonators. Jerry Zucker said, "It's like the Alfred Hitchcock signature. Instead of me, it's mom."[13] Filming also took place at Calgary's former Currie Barracks military base, which had been converted to accommodate film and television productions.[13]

Sound stages were constructed inside two aircraft hangars at the base to be used for many of the film's interior scenes, including the Venetian's hotel rooms and conference room. Driving scenes, using green screens and rear projection effects, were also shot inside the hangars.[13] The scene with the coin toss by Owen Templeton was filmed at Calgary's McMahon Stadium.

Filming returned to Las Vegas for a nine-day period beginning on September 20, 2000, with the first three days spent at the McCarran International Airport, before moving to the Venetian resort on the Las Vegas Strip for a six-day shoot.[5][13][10][15] Venetian officials negotiated with Paramount for six months to use the resort in the film.[5] Scenes were shot throughout the Venetian, with the exception of its hotel rooms. Venetian scenes included the casino, lobby, and the entrance to its valet parking garage, as well as exterior shots of the resort.[13][15] Approximately 1,000 background extras were needed during the second Las Vegas shoot.[10] On September 25, 2000, second unit filming took place along Nevada State Route 161, leading to Goodsprings.[15]

Filming in Las Vegas concluded on September 29, 2000, and production moved to Ely, Nevada,[16] which stood in as Silver City, New Mexico.[17] Ely's Nevada Northern Railway Museum stood in as the Silver City train station.[5][17] According to the Nevada Film Office, the filmmakers "fell in love" with the museum after being shown pictures of it. As a result, the initial two day shoot in Ely was extended to six days. Ely's western entrance, accessed from U.S. Route 50, was used as the entrance to Silver City.[5]

After concluding in Ely, production crews relocated to southern California for the final six weeks of filming, mainly for exterior scenes.[5][13] California filming primarily occurred in Antelope Valley, Palmdale, Acton, Santa Clarita, and Newhall.[13] Rosamond, California was also a primary location,[13] with filming occurring during a three-week period in October 2000.[18] Smart's helicopter scenes were filmed at 3118 Carnation Street in Rosamond.[citation needed] Additional filming in California occurred at Big Sky Ranch and El Mirage Lake.[13]

Sinclair and the gamblers' eccentric habits are further exaggerated in deleted scenes, where they partake in many more ridiculous bets, including playing Monopoly with real money. In another scene, a high roller pretends to find what they are doing immoral. Professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page and his wife, Kimberly, had a cameo that was cut when test audiences failed to give his appearance any reaction. The scene is available on the DVD release.


Box office[edit]

Rat Race was released in both the United States and Canada on August 17, 2001 and grossed USD$11,662,094 in its opening weekend at the North American box office, ranking third behind American Pie 2 and Rush Hour 2.[19] The film ultimately grossed $56.6 million domestically and $28.8 million overseas for a worldwide total of approximately $85.5 million based on a budget of an estimated $48 million, making it commercially successful.[2] The film was released in the United Kingdom on January 11, 2002 and opened also at number three behind the non-comedic The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.[20] For the next two weekends, the film regained the spot, before moving down one place and then four places down before finally ending up on No. 10 on February 10, 2002.[21][22][23][24]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 43% "Rotten" rating based on 127 reviews with an average rating of 4.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Rat Race moves from one sight gag to another, but only a handful of them are genuinely funny."[25] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 52 out of 100 based on 26 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[26] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rat Race (12)". British Board of Film Classification. 2001-08-29. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
  2. ^ a b Rat Race at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ Petrikin, Chris (24 February 1999). "Quarles' 'Mama' at Fox". Variety. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  4. ^ a b Fleming, Michael (6 August 1999). "Zucker at start of 'Race' for Par". Variety. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Cling, Carol (2 October 2000). "'Rat Race' trades glitter of Sin City for quiet climes in Ely". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on 13 November 2002.
  6. ^ Cling, Carol (31 January 2000). "Nevada locations featured in Super Bowl commercial". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on 5 January 2002.
  7. ^ Cling, Carol (1 May 2000). "Berenger in town to film 'Hollywood Sign'". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on 26 September 2002.
  8. ^ Brodesser, Claude (20 June 2000). "Off 'Road,' Meyer enters 'Race'". Variety. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  9. ^ "Amy Smart". Variety. 28 June 2000. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  10. ^ a b c Cling, Carol (18 September 2000). "Plethora of stars ride into Vegas for 'Rat Race'". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on 21 November 2002.
  11. ^ Fleming, Michael (12 October 2000). "Cain rolls into Par pic 'Race'". Variety. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  12. ^ Mills, Nancy (6 August 2001). "Cleese Pleased To Be In 'Rat Race' But Says State of Comedy Is No Laughing Matter". New York Daily News. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Rat Race: About The Production". Cinema Review. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  14. ^ Cling, Carol (7 August 2000). "'Rat Race' rolls into Las Vegas for a week". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on 29 March 2001.
  15. ^ a b c Cling, Carol (25 September 2000). "'Rat Race' filming in and around The Venetian; 'Magie' begins work". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on 3 August 2002.
  16. ^ Clarke, Norm (1 October 2000). "Whoopi whoops it up with jackpot". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on 23 August 2002.
  17. ^ a b Herndon, Rudy (24 November 2006). "Film crew finishes Ely movie; another next week". The Ely Times. Retrieved 24 May 2017 – via NewsBank. According to Tuffendsam, local residents can rest assured that "Play Dead" will not be another "Rat Race." That 2001 comic dud was filmed at several prominent locations around Ely, including the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. However, the filmmakers rechristened the town "Silver City, New Mexico" - much to the chagrin of some locals.
  18. ^ Muttalib, Bashirah (11 October 2000). "Warners goes Downtown with new plaza façade". Variety. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  19. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for August 17–19, 2001 – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. 2001-08-20. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
  20. ^ "Weekend box office 11th January 2002 - 13th January 2002". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  21. ^ "Weekend box office 18th January 2002 - 20th January 2002". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  22. ^ "Weekend box office 25th January 2002 - 27th January 2002". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  23. ^ "Weekend box office 1st February 2002 - 3rd February 2002". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  24. ^ "Weekend box office 8th February 2002 - 10th February 2002". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  25. ^ Rat Race at Rotten Tomatoes
  26. ^ Rat Race at Metacritic
  27. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.

External links[edit]