It's another great day in Las Vegas, and casino tycoon Donald Sinclair (John Cleese) is getting bored. So, six 'lucky' contestants are invited to meet with Sinclair for the gambling opportunity of a lifetime: a race to Silver City, New Mexico. The prize? A duffel bag stuffed with two million dollars, stored in a locker at the train station. Each contestant is given a key to this locker, with GPS locators, and turned loose. Along the way, in their panic to get to the finish line first they have capers involving Adolf Hitler's car, helicopters, demolition derbys, rocket cars, human hearts, and an I Love Lucy convention. And cows. Seriously, the cow becomes quite important.On the journey, they drag other people into the race, and the chaos increases.Of course, it's never as simple as it sounds, since not only do the competitors have each other to play against, they have no idea that they are being gambled with by other multi-millionaires, betting on who will get there first. In repeated cuts back to the casino it is shown that these millionaires have no qualms about betting with other people's dignity.Yes, it's an explicit ripoff/remake of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. But is easily as funny as the original.The contestants, most of whom have or end up with allies:
Duane (Seth Green) and Blaine Cody (Vince Vieluf): Two brothers who are trying various get-rich-quick schemes. Blaine speaks incoherently due to a recent tongue piercing. Those Two Guys are a clear parody of Dingy Bell and Benjy Benjamin from the original film.
Vera (Whoopi Goldberg) and Merrill (Lanei Chapman): Merrill is the long-lost daughter of Vera and the two have just met for the first time, when Merril is an adult and trying to launch her own business.
The Pear family: Randy (Jon Lovitz) and Bev (Kathy Najimy), who are on vacation at the casino with their kids Jason (Brody Smith) and Kimberly (Jillian Marie Hubert). Possibly the stand in for the crazy dentist from the original movie.
Nick Schaffer (Breckin Meyer) and Tracy Faucet (Amy Smart): Nick is a lawyer, the calmest and most intelligent of the contestants. At first he doesn't even care about the race, suspecting it to be some kind of scam, until the Cody Brothers sabotage the airport. Eventually he recruits Tracy, a hot-headed helicopter pilot, as transportation and Love Interest. The latter might be a parody on the semi-amateur pilot from the original movie.
Enrico Pollini (Rowan Atkinson): An Italian tourist with narcolepsy. Perhaps the Funny Foreigner stand-in for Terry-Thomas' character from the original film.
Methods of travel used by the contestants include many types of cars, vans and trailers - including Adolf Hitler's Mercedes Benz and a courier van transporting a human heart - a taxi, a helicopter, a train, a tour bus bound for an I Love Lucy convention, a tour bus bound for a mental institution, a Monster Truck, a Hot Air Balloon, a rocket car, a horse, and when all else fails, your own two feet.
This film is an example of:
Actor Allusion: John Cleese's character is named Donald Sinclair, named after a Torquay hotel owner Cleese met, who inspired the character of Basil Fawlty.
Affably Evil: Donald Sinclair is really quite charming when he's not treating other people like toys.
Owen: Excuse me, miss? [Bartender turns around.] Oh, sorry! I thought you were a woman!
Bartender: I am a woman.
Ambulance Chaser: One of them saw a potential client in Enrico when he got ran over by an AMBULANCE!
It should be noted that this role was played by Gloria Allred, who acted as a Brick Joke because she'd rushed to the person that had slipped on the Cody brothers' drinking glass that was meant to invoke this trope.
The Big Race: Six contestants who are selected by a group of compulsive-gambler multi-millionaires to compete in a race from Las Vegas to Silver City, New Mexico for a two million dollar prize... hilarious hijinx ensue.
Though not without reason - after all, both Mr. and Mrs. Pear had just flipped her off (Mr. Pear by accident and Mrs. Pear to badly demonstrate what he did), and Mr. Pear complimented her: "I really like your dyke... er, bike!"
Bittersweet Ending: None of the main characters get to keep any of the money they spent the whole movie chasing after, but then again the money went to charity, none of the main characters get in severe trouble, legal or otherwise, and the Jerkass billionaires who were betting on the sick little game are going to end up giving a huge sum of their own money to charity.
Bolt of Divine Retribution / Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Subversion/variation, with Tracy saying to the mechanic that rips them off that it was "unchristian", the mechanic replying asking for God to smite him... and then a rocket car drives by, and makes a sonic boom that knocks down his ramshackle garage.
Gloria Allred, probably the most noted (and ruthless) attorney in the country, as herself. Understandably, the characters have an Oh Crap moment when they inadvertantly injure someone and she's around.
Chekhov's Gun: A pickup truck carrying spare car parts. One of them falls off, Zach's ambulance runs over it, and it causes the heart to fall out of its container. Later, during the motorcycle gang attack on the Pears, they run it over, causing the cigarette lighter to fly into Randy's mouth.
Coincidental Accidental Disguise: Randy with a Hitler-moustache-looking lipstick smudge. Driving a Mercedes decked out in swastikas. Doing what appears to be Nazi salutes. As a burnt tongue makes his speech sound ambiguously German. To an audience of World War II veterans. And giving them the finger.
Comeback Tomorrow: A non-insulting comeback: in Rat Race, while Nick is flirting with Tracy. They're both reading the same biography of Charles Lindbergh, and she tells him that she's up to the part where "he's just had a sex change". A moment later he learns that she's a pilot.
Nick: Are there many female pilots?
Tracy: There's at least one.
Nick: When I walk away, I'm gonna think of something great to say to that.
Tracy: Good. Mail it to me.
A few scenes later he comes back having realized the obvious comeback: "Two if you count Lindbergh."
Duane: What do you mean "that's it"? I'm not giving up! And neither are you! And neither am I!
Diabolus ex Machina: All of the money being accidentally donated to charity at the end. That's not to say charity isn't a good thing, but after all everyone went through, none of them got to keep a cent.
Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Done by the Cody brothers several times - to stop air traffic out of the airport, sabotage the Pear family's Ford Aerostar van, and to make a copy of the key so they can split up. The first time it works but they are delayed by buying a new car, the second time it makes no difference (Randy just steals another car) and the third time totally backfires when the clerk hears what the key is for and runs off with it.
Disaster Dominoes: The whole film is full of them, and much of the humor is based around how things just get worse and worse.
Tracy upon seeing her boyfriend making out with his Ex.
The Crazy Squirrel Lady and her 'shortcut' to those that don't buy a squirrel from her. Considering her very accurate directions, the number of cars there, and the skeleton that slides out of one, it looks like she's been doing it for a long time...
The taxi driver who lost a bet because of Owen's bad call leaves Owen in the middle of the desert.
Everythings Better With Cows: First the Cody Brothers run into a herd of cows. Duane Cody collides with quite a few while holding onto a hot air balloon. Then one of those gets snagged by the balloon, becoming a Running Gag.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Despite managing to catch a bullet train earlier, Enrico is in dead last place, sleeping in the lobby. Then the Cody brothers stop all air traffic out of the airport, thus preventing a heart from being flown to El Paso for transplant. That heart gets put into a van to be driven there, and on the way it stops to pick up Enrico. Enrico gets to the locker before everyone else.
Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: First of all the Heart Courier is a little too eager to take a little peek at the human heart he's transporting. Then it takes him next to no time to consider killing a 'drifter' and cutting out his heart to replace it when it's lost. And about as much time to consider Enrico as that drifter. He looks pretty disappointed when Enrico gets away too...
Not so Above It All - Nick Schaffer starts out as the only one not convinced by Sinclair's too-good-to-be-true offer. But when he meets a helicopter pilot just as all the planes have been grounded, including all the other contestants...
Sean, Tracy's then-boyfriend, when he sees her helicopter approaching while having a Two-Person Pool Party with his "ex" Charlene. Hilariously, his first instinct is to dunk Charlene under the water, as if drowning the poor woman would hide her from Tracy.
Only Sane Man: Nick Schaffer could be classed as this, as he has the sanest approach to finding a way to win, and the best idea when they get to meet Smash Mouth. Too bad he teams up with Tracy Faucet...
Vera and Merrill. They should have bought a squirrel...
The Cody brothers' great idea to split up so they can take different routes lands them in a lot of bother with a hardware store guy, a hot air balloon, and cows.
Standard Snippet: "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" while Duane and Blaine sabotage the radar tower, "Ride Of The Valkyries" as Tracy does her helicopter attack.
Surveillance As The Plot Demands: Notably averted. Sinclair tells them that their key rings have tracking devices in them so he can track their progress, but this just makes them show up on a map graphic — everyone watching is confused when a traffic jam grinds all of them to a near-halt.
Survival Mantra: As everything is going wrong around him, Owen just keeps driving the bus, repeating to himself, "Two million dollars. Two million dollars."
Take Our Word for It: Silver City is said to be a small town; but the nearby monster truck rally and Smash Mouth Concert/Fundraiser seem to beg to differ.
Those Wacky Nazis: Run a Barbie Museum... dedicated to Nazi official Klaus Barbie, not the doll. Then the Pears steal Adolf Hitler's car, (Or Nazimobile, as Randy calls it) which was on display.
They're always pissed, honey. They're Nazis. It's like it's their job.
Enrico Pollini, who is so absent-minded that he got hit by a speeding car for running onto the road trying to hail a taxi. Later he does show enough savviness to realize exactly what the Heart Courier wants when he starts asking him if he has any relatives that would miss him.
The Cody brothers are good at this as well, mostly for failing to think their plans through all that well. The scene at the airport tower is a perfect example of this.
Unstoppable Rage: Tracy's reaction to finding out her boyfriend has been cheating on her.
We Meet Again: Owen gets into a taxi with a guy who lost forty thousand dollars on the game he called wrong. He gives him the slip at the airport, but then runs into him again on his way out. The taxi driver drops him off in the middle of the desert.
Woman Scorned: Tracy goes instantly psycho when she finds her boyfriend cheating on her with his ex.