The Great Race - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Great Race Reviews

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December 7, 2017
WAAAAY too long! Much too loud. It seems like all the characters but the hero just yell at each other. Jokes and situations run way too long before the punch lines, which are then delivered in a manner which is not funny. Did I mention it is way too long? 2 hrs 40 min. It was obviously a high budget film with a high budget, normally talented cast, but it doesn't compare at all with its 1965 competition 'Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines'.
½ May 29, 2017
Campy fun. Enjoyable to watch a great cast having fun: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Keenan Wynn and Peter Falk are delights. One of Blake Edwards' best. "Push the button, Max!"
Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
½ April 1, 2017
I just love this movie. I've seen it many times over my life, and it never gets old. The contrast between squeaky-clean Tony Curtis and dastardly Jack Lemmon is wonderful, and Lemmon in particular delivers a hilarious performance, both in his main role as Professor Fate, as well as the Crown Prince of Pottsdorf later in the movie. The laughs and mannerisms of both characters are memorable. The scene in the Arctic snowstorm always cracks me up, Fate's mustache being snapped off by his henchman (Peter Falk, who's also great), and him showing he's not exactly a 'morning person' when he's asked to 'rise and shine'. Professor Fate is so bothered by everything that he'll even snarl at cute little pugs in a lavish bed. Natalie Wood is in a deceptively tricky role, needing at the same time to be funny, serious as a suffragette, and secretly attracted to Curtis as a love interest - and she absolutely shines. She's also incredibly beautiful, simply a dream, as always. The 'big' moments of slapstick in the film are done very well, including an epic pie fight and barroom brawl, but there are also a large number of 'small' moments - little lines of dialogue, inflections, and facial expressions - that keep me smiling throughout, even when I know it's silliness that would appeal to children. The film is 160 minutes but Director Blake Edwards keeps it lively, and it never drags. Great film.
March 14, 2017
Of course it's silly. It is supposed to be. Grand mid 60's epic comedy with wit as well as slapstick. Natalie shows great comedic timing. And the pie fight is always funny, especially Natalie IN the pie fight. Yes it is long. But these were days when people did not have cell phones to check every 2 minutes, actually had an adult attention spans, and went out for a big night out at the MOVIES!
January 7, 2017
With a stellar cast, a comedy which appeals to all ages.
November 19, 2016
I have loved this movie ever since I was a kid when it was first released
October 2, 2016
What a funny, fun, adventurous, well acted movie. It's full of energy, interesting costumes, locations. Also, the staging and effects were pretty good for the time. No one got killed, so that alone was good considering the violence that appears in most movies today. Jack Lemmon is one of the greatest actors of all time. Just a nice movies to watch.
July 27, 2016
This movie is quite long duration and also inspire the cartoon Wacky Races. Tony Curtis is The Great Leslie along with his good friend Keenan Wynn, broke many records with traveling craft. Nemesis Jack Lemmon and bumbling assistant Peter Falk always try to sabotage Tony but end up messing his own self. Natalie Wood is a reporter who fight for feminist. The 3 of them contest in a race that takes them to several places in the world. Along the way Natalie car is down and she ride with Tony. She manage to handcuff Keenan to a train and convince Tony he is leaving. He gradually fall in love for her. In the small kingdom, the blur and drunk king resemble Jack and he impersonate him while in jail. Peter gather Tony to save him and the scheme is unleash. There's the big pie fight and they all resume the race. About to win the race, Tony stop right in front the line and kiss Natalie to prove his love. Jack cross the line and win. Then got angry again feeling Tony give it to him since he should have win easily. Jack demand another race again which Tony accept. Jack let him have the start and he wanted to blow his car with his in-build cannon, but the Eiffel Tower collapse instead..
November 19, 2015
WOW......WOW......WOW......WOW......WOW.....WOW....STUNNING......FANTASTIC......GENIUS.....AMAZING......SUCH A FANTASTIC MOVIE 2 WATCH......I HAVE JUST SEEN THIS MOVIE 4 THE 1ST TIME N THINK THAT THIS IS SUCH A BRILLIANT MOVIE 2 WATCH, its got a good cast of actors/actresses throughout this movie.....I think that tony Curtis (.R.I.P.), natalie wood (.R.I.P.), jack lemmon (.R.I.P.), peter falk (.R.I.P.), Keenan Wynn (.R.I.P.), play good roles/parts throughout this movie.....I think that the director of this action/adventure/kids/family/romance/classics/comedy movie had done a great job of directing this movie because you never know what 2 expect throughout this movie.......I think that this is such a highly entertaining movie 2 watch, its got such a great cast throughout this movie......


Director Blake Edwards based the film on the 1908 New York to Paris Race, very loosely interpreted. On February 12, 1908, the "Greatest Auto Race" began with six entrants, starting in New York City and racing westward across three continents. The destination was Paris, making it the first around-the-world automobile race. Only the approximate race route and the general time period were borrowed by Edwards in his effort to make "the funniest comedy ever".

Edwards, a studious admirer of silent film, dedicated the film to early film comedians Laurel and Hardy. The Great Race incorporated a great many silent era visual gags, along with slapstick, double entendres, parodies, and absurdities. The film includes such time-worn scenes as a barroom brawl, the tent of the desert sheik, a sword fight, and the laboratory of the mad scientist. The unintended consequences of Professor Fate's order, "Push the button, Max!", is a running gag, along with the spotless invulnerability of "The Great Leslie".

Edwards poked fun at later films and literature as well. The saloon brawl scene was a parody of the western film genre, and a plot detour launched during the final third of the film was a direct parody of The Prisoner of Zenda, wherein a traveler is a lookalike for the king and stands in for him.

Pie fight

The Technicolor pie fight scene in the royal bakery was filmed over five days. The first pastry thrown was part of a large cake decorated for the king's coronation. Following this was the throwing of 4,000 pies, the most pies ever filmed in a pie fight. The scene lasts four minutes and twenty seconds and cost US$200,000 to shoot; US$18,000 just for the pastry.

Colorful cream pies with fillings such as raspberry, strawberry, blueberry and lemon were used. For continuity between days of shooting, the actors were photographed at the end of each day and then made up the following morning to have the same colorful appearance, the same smears of pie crust and filling.

Edwards told the cast that a pie fight by itself is not funny, so to make it funny they would build tension by having the hero, dressed all in white, fail to get hit with any pies. He said, "The audience will start yearning for him to get it". Finally, the hero was to take a pie in the face at "just the right moment".

Shooting was halted while the actors took the weekend off. Over the weekend, the pie residue spoiled, all over the scenery. When the actors returned Monday morning, the pie filling smelled so bad that the building required a thorough cleaning and large fans to blow out the sour air. The missing pie residue was carefully recreated with more pies, and shooting resumed.

At first, the actors had fun with the pie fight assignment, but eventually the process grew wearisome and dangerous. Wood choked briefly on pie filling which hit her open mouth. Lemmon reported that he got knocked out a few times; he said, "a pie hitting you in the face feels like a ton of cement". At the end of shooting, when Edwards called "cut!", he was barraged with several hundred pies that members of the cast had hidden, waiting for the moment.

The pie fight scene paid homage to the early Mack Sennett practice of using a single thrown pie as comedic punctuation, but to a greater degree it was a celebration of classic movie pie fights such as Behind the Screen (1916) with Charlie Chaplin; The Battle of the Century (1927) starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy; and In the Sweet Pie and Pie (1941) with the Three Stooges. In his script for The Great Race Edwards called for a "Battle of the Century-style pie fight". Though Edwards used 4,000 pies over five days, many of these were used as set dressing for continuity. Laurel and Hardy used 3,000 pies in only one day of shooting, so more are seen flying through the air. Leonard Maltin compared The Great Race pie fight to The Battle of the Century and determined that Laurel and Hardy's pacing was far superior; that the more modern film suffered from an "incomplete understanding of slapstick" while the 1927 pie fight remains "one of the great scenes in all of screen comedy."

man this is such a highly entertaining movie 2 watch its got such a fantastic cast throughout this is such a brilliant enjoyable comedy movie 2 watch, with such a fantastic cast throughout this movie......
½ November 4, 2015
The Great Race comes from an era in '60s in Hollywood when studios thought the only way they could maintain an advantage over television was to make three hour comedies.

To be fair, a lot of great epics came out of those years. But when they tried to make epic comedies, results tended to be mixed at best. The Granddaddy of Bloated Comedies is It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Over three hours, some of it hilarious, quite a bit of it not so much, a very long crawl to the finish line.

The Great Race came out of this atmosphere. It runs 2:40, not as long as IAMMMMW, but still plenty long for a comedy. It does a much better job at sustaining the comedy, too, because it isn't spread over 100 different comedians of wildly varying calibers performing in plots of wildly varying comic value. It's a single plot driven by the four main actors, each at the top of their game.

Jack Lemmon - perfect, as always. Has any actor had such equal and first-rate facility with comedy and drama?
Peter Falk - perfect, as always.
Tony Curtis - perfect, and he wasn't always perfect. But when he was in the right movie, he was terrific. In this one, he was totally in the spirit of the campy perfection of his character.
Natalie Wood - perfect, and good Lord, did she look amazing. Almost distractingly amazing. I mean, Jeez Louise, A-freakin'-MAZING! In an era that was pretty blatant about exploiting actresses' beauty, I can't think of an actress in a movie of that era looking hotter.

Blake Edwards' concept for this movie was as a tribute to old slapstick movies, starting with a dedication to Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy. TMC, true to their cineaste integrity, broadcasts the entire movie, first frame to last. This includes an overture of the two Henry Mancini songs written for the movie, played over a static graphic of an old-timey glass slide that reads "Overture." There's an entr'acte after the intermission, too.

When in the history of movies has there been an overture? How is that a tribute to any movie tradition, let alone slapstick? Overtures and entr'actes are for stage musicals, and nowhere else. And these particular songs are hardly show-stoppers. So right out of the gate, we're spending four minutes of a very, very long tribute to old movies with a tribute to something that has never existed in movies. And THEN they run the opening credits!

However, that's okay, because this allows me to go on my rant about how much I hate overtures.

You're in a musical. The audience is in the theater. They've paid for their tickets, they're ready for the show, we're ready to perform it. Everybody's excited and eager and ready for the show. We have a hot audience on the other side of that curtain!

Now let's make them sit in the dark for five minutes and listen to music. And tip off all the songs in the show to boot.

I never understood the necessity of overtures and entr'actes. If I direct a musical, I get rid of them if I can get away with it. If it's really to cover the arrival of latecomers, start the show five minutes later. But when the lights go down, I want the curtain up and my audience entertained.

After watching The Great Race for the first time in about 30 years, some of the lines struck me as familiar. After a cursory search, I was unable to confirm that Mystery Science Theater 3000's "Push the button, Frank" was inspired by Professor Fate's frequently delivered line, "Push the button, Max." I found some speculations about it, but no confirmation from anyone who would know.

But the even more glaring potential tribute/plagiarism issue deals with the movie Blazing Saddles. In The Great Race, Dorothy Provine plays Lili Olay, a beautiful blonde singer who is the star of the floor show in the local Western saloon. In a later sequence, Ross Martin plays a character named Baron Von Shtupp.

You see where this is headed, right?

I can't believe that Mel Brooks intended Madeleine Kahn's character's name to be a tribute to The Great Race. It's a fun movie, but it was only ten years old when Blazing Saddles came out, and wasn't quite tribute-worthy to a cutting edge comic artist like Mel Brooks. The Lili Von Shtupp character was based on Marlene Dietrich, whose nickname was Lili Marlene. So the Lili name must have come pretty easily. One of the writers of the movie, maybe even Brooks, must have seen The Great Race and made a sub-conscious connection for the last name.

Can't find any confirmation online of how Brooks came up with this character name. I know I'm not the first person to make this connection, but I'm curious to know how it happened. It's SUCH a huge coincidence.

At the risk of overanalyzing a light comedy, I'll comment on the gender politics of the movie. The Great Race was set at the turn of the 20th century, when women had a lot to protest. Aside from the right to vote, things hadn't gotten too much further by 1965, when this movie was made. Mad Men, for instance, showed clearly how difficult it was for women in the workplace in that era. Nowadays, with the hindsight of the last 50 years of gender politics, the Battle of the Sexes presented in this movie seems fairly quaint.

However, the arguments that Leslie and Maggie have over women's rights issues actually have a little spirit and heft. Blake Edwards doesn't tilt the argument too heavily in either direction. Indeed, he provides room for The Great Leslie, who at all times in this movie is as perfect as a Hero-in-White can possibly be, to actually come off as something as a douche. He cynically concedes an argument to Maggie, pretty much to get in her perfectly tailored, Edith Head-designed pants, and she sees right through it and gives him the smackdown he deserves.

It was also very clever of Professor Fate to pick up on the tension between Leslie and Maggie and use it against Leslie. This is a pretty smart plot point. It helps raise the undercurrent of sexual tension and gives his rather cartoonish character a bit of dimension.

Honestly, I wouldn't have minded seeing Edwards flesh out this subplot more pointedly. It's a two and a half hour movie, he could have taken a few minutes - say, by getting rid of the freaking OVERTURE! - to bring their argument over the genders (and there were only two back then) closer to the brink. It might have made his decision to throw the race more satisfying.
October 22, 2015
I love this has so many funny scenes...the cake scene, the Lemon Tree song, the wild west....Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon and Natalie Wood and Peter Falk are wonderful.
July 15, 2015
I was a huge Jack Lemmon fan as a teen. I always went to see movies like Good Neighbor Sam and How To Murder Your Wife just to watch Lemmon turn goofy scripts into funny movies. The Great Race lasts as my all-time favorite. Lemmon and Peter Falk are the perfect couple to get into mischief and Tony Curtis and Keenan Wynn made a great counterpoint. Add the saucy Natalie Wood to the mix and you've got the longest, funniest movie in years. We miss you, Jack.
June 23, 2015
Loved the show I want to buy it and watch it again
May 30, 2015
.............I think this might be the only movie I've seen to come close to topping The Producers and The Emperor's New Groove for the funniest movie I've ever seen in my life.

Granted, it does show its age at times (Mostly with the green screening and the fist fights) but, for the most part, the effects for their time are jaw dropping, the cast is fantastic, the acting is great, the characters are all extremely funny and likable in their own ways, the set design is awesome, the stunts are incredible, the story doesn't waste our time, the music is awesome, and the slapstick, the banter between characters, and just the writing in general is just fucking hilarious! And its also home to probably the greatest pie fight ever put to film!

If you haven't seen this movie, ya got two and half hours to spare, and ya just want a good laugh, watch it right now!!!!
May 24, 2015
While it is old-school, Blake Edward's The Great Race is laugh-out-loud hilarious. . It's massive, it's inventive, with a very simple but creative premise. It's one of my all time favorite comedies.
May 5, 2015
One of the funniest comedy movies of all time. Featuring a stellar cast and full of slapstick, sight gags, one-liners, and of course the famous pie scene. Yes it is a tad long - but it is a great race!
½ April 5, 2015
While it does have a slow pace, the jokes are so well done and Jack Lemmon gives one of his funniest, if not his funniest performance ever.
March 28, 2015
Quite simply genius. Please do not let Ben Stiller remake this and destray what's left of my fondness for great comedies of the last century.
February 14, 2015
Thoroughly entertaining from start to finish (pun intended). Curtis and Lemmon are strong enough to carry it through some slow patches and Natalie Wood balances the slapstick when it threatens to get too silly. New York to Paris in old cars is what this film is all about and enough going on to keep all the family happy.
February 2, 2015
A movie for another era - the sloooow pacing and epic length did it in for me, as well as the lacklustre slapstick.

Not to say that comedies from the 60s are all slow. "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and "One, Two, Three" are comedy masterpieces at quick pace.

Two stars out of respect that it may have been funny back in the day to some people.
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