It was allegedly Brittany Rapone’s final presentation of her tenure at the Center, having secured a job at UCSF and being out the door. (It now appears that paperwork delays are going to give her the chance to steal not one but two slots from poor Kevin.) And what better way to make an exit than with a late Jerry Zucker film – specifically 2001’s Rat Race – right? Seems like a good idea.
But before that, Brittany decided to show a pair of Key and Peele shorts: Slap-Ass and Slap-Ass: In Recovery. These perhaps-too-true looks into a baseball locker room are brought to you by YouTube. Thanks, YouTube!
But now…Rat Race!
Rat Race is a movie that dares to ask the question “How do you re-make a classic like ‘It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’?” The answer is that you presuppose a group of high-roller gamblers who, tired of Vegas, get into making bets on bizarre real world scenarios (such as “Which maid can hang on the curtain rods the longest?” or “How much will this call girl charge to shave a man’s buttocks in a hot tub filled with Pepto-Bismol?”) Then you get a casino owner to plant six special tokens in the one-armed bandits, gather up the lucky winners, and set them off on an anything-goes race to a
giant W locker in a train station in New Mexico that contains $2M in cash. First one there gets to keep it, and the high-rollers get to bet on who is going to win.
There’s no way I’m going to intercut between the six winners as the film did, so I’ll just summarize each one in sequence. I guess that means I should start with…
Seth Green and his newly-tongue-pierced brother. These two idiots, who in the movie’s opening tried and failed to scam the casino in a slip-and-fall injury scenario, embody the spirit of the saboteur in this movie. When (nearly) everybody heads straight to the airport, Green and Bro come in a bit behind and miss the last ticket to Albuquerque. So that they don’t get left behind, they contrive to destroy one of the airport’s radar towers, shutting down the airport and putting the race effectively on the ground.
After sabotaging Jon Lovitz’s minivan (more on that later) they get the brilliant idea to make a duplicate of the locker key and split up in order to maximize their chances of winning. However, the hardware store employee overhears their plan and steals the original key, leading Green and Bro to have to chase him across the desert and ultimately into a hot air balloon – dragging a cow. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds. Subsequently, on account of a nipple-piercing flash, they crash their car into a monster truck rally (that is right on the side of a lonely highway?) – allowing them to eventually arrive at the locker in a monster truck.
Whoopi Goldberg plays a mother who has just that morning met the daughter she long ago gave up for adoption. Any sort of dynamic between the two exploring the fact that they just met is pretty much completely ignored for the rest of the film. The daughter turns out to be a pretty high-powered business woman who arranges a charter flight that would certainly have made them the winners had the airport not shut down. Instead, they get lost on the road (how do you lose a highway?) and meet a crazy Kathy Bates trying to sell them a squirrel. Since they decline to purchase one of the vermin, Bates directs them to a well-used people-who-didn’t-buy-a-squirrel death trap. Their car careens down the ravine of death but they survive, and on foot they walk until they stumble into…a jet car test. They sneakily appropriate the jet car and break a land speed record on their way to New Mexico, because that could totally happen.
Joining in the stranded-in-the-desert theme is Cuba Gooding Jr., who plays a football referee that blew a coin toss in a recent high-profile game. He makes the mistake of getting into a cab whose driver lost $20K on the game and blames him. So instead of a ride to New Mexico, he gets a ride out to that part of the desert where angry cabbies strand their passengers and leave them to die. Cuba manages to stagger to a rest stop, where he commandeers a bus full of Lucille Ball impersonators, and eventually after crashing the bus into a cow dangling from a hot air balloon makes his way into town on a stolen horse (which may or may not have a name).
Our fourth contestant is Jon Lovitz, a patriarch who is desperately trying to get away from his family while on vacation. He lies about his reason for heading to New Mexico but his wife insists that they come along. With no actual idea about the urgency of the trip, his children want to keep stopping (“Oh, I have to go to the bathroom!” “Oh, it’s the Barbie Museum!”) Well, the “Barbie Museum” turns out to be dedicated not to the doll, but to Klaus Barbie, an actual Gestapo leader. Upon learning this, Lovitz and his Jewish family try to subtly flee the Neo-Nazis running the museum only to find that their van has been sabotaged by Green and Bro. Desperate, they steal Hitler’s Staff Car from the museum, and after accidentally flipping off a biker gang they are run off the road onto the stage of a WWII veterans’ gathering (again, right on the side of a lonely highway?) with Lovitz looking a bit like Hitler. Somehow they get away, Lovitz confesses the goal of the race, and his wife (nearly) convinces him to give up. But instead he drugs his family with sleeping pills, drags them into the cab of a semi, and hitches a ride to the locker.
Next is Breckin Meyer, who was either Franklin or Bash (Franklin it is!) and who looks really familiar for a guy who seems to have done mostly voice work. Franklin is a straight-laced guy trying to flee a bachelor party who initially declines to participate in the race, seeing as it’s beneath his dignity, or he doesn’t believe the $2M is real, or some such. Instead he hits on a hot Amy Smart who turns out to be a helicopter pilot, and when news of the airport being shut down comes through, she reports that helicopters are free to leave and she agrees to take him to New Mexico since she’s going that way anyhow.
Of course, on the way she wants to make a surprise visit to her boyfriend – who was certainly surprised…with another woman. Amy Smart goes psychotic, eventually resulting in the crash of the helicopter and forcing them to steal her boyfriend’s breaking-down truck to try to get to the locker.
Finally, we have Mr. Bean, who plays an Italian tourist. (So…”Faglioli”?) He also happens to have narcolepsy, and he has his first sleeping fit on his way out of the casino, where he sleeps standing still as a post for who knows how long. He eventually wakes and catches a ride with a human organ transporter played by Seinfeld’s Newman. As you would expect, Newman can’t resist the urge to mess with the human heart he is carrying, and ends up losing it, at which point he considers killing Faglioli to replace the heart. Faglioli escapes by jumping on (or technically “into”) a speeding train which happens to be going directly to the station where the locker is. Of course that means that he gets there first…only to fall asleep at the moment of putting the key in the locker.
The remainder of the crew just so happen to get there at exactly the same time and burst into the locker only to find that there’s no money. It turns out that the Pepto-Bismol call girl has hitched a ride with Cleese’s assistant whose job it was to verify the winner and has stolen the money.
This leads to a chase that ends on the stage of a hunger benefit concert being put on by Smash Mouth. Naturally this leads to the misapprehension that they are donating this money to the benefit (they eventually do, and claim that Cleese has promised to match!) and we get to listen to “All-Star”. Well, it was that or “Walking on the Sun”, right? Credits roll. The End.
This is…umm…it’s a movie. It’s actually pretty funny throughout. The race itself, however, is ridiculous – especially for its completely cavalier attitude towards geography. I’m not sure that any movie will ever beat Transformers II, where the protagonists take a side exit from Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian and end up in an airfield in Arizona, but Rat Race is a close second. Apparently there’s a salt flat that goes most of the way from Las Vegas to Podunk NM, the roadside is littered with balloon races, veterans’ gatherings, and monster truck rallies out in the middle of nowhere, as well as a huge benefit concert featuring one of the faddiest bands of the day. You know, there’s a reason that IAMMMMW had Los Angeles, and not Podunk NM, as its destination. It would take two spans of the Golden Gate Bridge to suspend this much disbelief. But it is pretty funny. And I guess that’s all that really matters for a film like this.