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Rat Race: Casino Meets Comedy
The 2001 American film includes an all-star cast who compete in a race without knowing they are part of a larger betting game.
The 2001 comedy film Rat Race combines comedy with commentary on the gambling industry.
With a larger than usual all-star cast including John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Cuba Gooding, Jr. Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Lovitz, Seth Green and Wayne Knight, the Jerry Zucker-directed film brought in over $86 million at the box office.
The movie follows six teams of people competing in a race from the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas across the deserts of the south-western USA to a train station in Silver City, New Mexico, where a locker is supposed to contain two million dollars in cash.
Unbeknownst to the six teams, who are picked after receiving special tokens left in slot machines at the casino, they are part of a wider betting game involving a group of high-rollers invited to the casino by owner Donald Sinclair (Cleese). The wealthy businessmen place bets on which of the teams will arrive at the destination first.
Rat race competitors
Of all the competitors, the businessmen place the most money on Italian tourist Enrico Pollini (Atkinson), after witnessing his over-enthusiasm for the race and his strong desire to win the overall prize. The Italian runs into several hurdles along the way: at one stage Pollini hitches a ride with medical services driver Zach (Knight), who is transporting a human heart intended for a heart transplant. When the heart becomes damaged Zach considers killing Enrico and taking his, before mistakenly gripping an electric fence and getting the heart beating again.
Like Pollini, all the competitors run into barriers that make use of Zucker's talent for hilarious, slapstick comedy.
Brothers Duane (Green) and Blaine Cody (Vince Vieluf) get ripped off by a locksmith who tried to escape in a hot air balloon, but eventually catch him (and the cow that gets attached to the balloon!) to retrieve their key to the lock.
Mother-daughter team Vera Baker (Goldberg) and Merrill Jennings (Lanei Chapman) stumble into the desert and steal a rocket car about to break the land speed record by masquerading as models for the vehicle.
Randy Pear (Lovitz) and his wife (Kathy Najimy) and two kids end up stealing Adolf Hitler's car from a museum dedicated to Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie (they thought the museum was supposed to be dedicated to Barbie dolls). Pear then burns his tongue on a cigarette lighter, mistakenly smears black lipstick on his nose and ends up crashing into a convention of World War II veterans where he appears to be impersonating Hitler as he speaks to the crowd.
NFL referee Owen Templeton (Gooding, Jr.) is stranded in the desert by a taxi driver after making an incorrect call on the coin toss that costs the driver a large amount of money he bet on the game. Templeton makes it to Silver City after dressing up as a bus driver and joining an I love Lucy convention.
Lawyer Nick Schaffer (Breckin Meyer) and his new love Tracy Faucet (Amy Smart) are held at gunpoint by a mechanic, but escape after Vera and Merrill's rocket car destroys the station.
All the rat racers arrive at the station at the same time and make a run for the locker. Pollini, who suffers from the medical condition narcolepsy, reaches the locker first but falls asleep just as he is about to open it. With constant twists throughout the film, the movie then ends with the competitors sharing the money and mistakenly ending up at a charity concert being put on by the band Smash Mouth, who think the teams are there to donate the money.
Throughout the movie Sinclair runs side bets (as any good bookmaker should) to keep the high rollers entertained. This includes betting on how much money a prostitute will ask for to shave Sinclair's buttocks in a tub of Pepto-Bismol.
The film was inspired by the 1963 Stanley Kramer comedy film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. In that film, a bank robber stops the drivers of four vehicles in the southern California desert and informs them about $350,000 hidden in Santa Rosita. When the bank robber "Smiler" Grogan (Jimmy Durante) dies, the others race to reach the money first.