A bunch of bozos get together for the annual (?) Cannonball Run, a cross country road race where rules are not coolz. They all have their gimmicks and celebs galore as they race for the coveted cup. Can [insert favorite character] win the race before it’s too late? Find out in… The Cannonball Run.
How?! In the flimsiest of plots our heroes, J.J. and Victor, enter The Cannonball Run disguised as ambulance drivers in an attempt to evade police suspicion. Added to the mix are: some hot women, a gambler and a washed up race car driver turned drunk disguised as priests, Jackie Chan in a Japanese robot car, good ol’ boy Terry Bradshaw, a Roger Moore lookalike played by Roger Moore, and a very racist depiction of a Middle Eastern Sheik. There are others but those are the major players. Anyway, J.J. and Victor kidnap a photographer lady and have a rivalry with the priests, but otherwise it’s just zany antic after zany antic for our heroes. The whole time there is an attempt by a politician to shut down the race, but that comes to nothing except sadness for the politician. The film culminates with a fight at a gas station where all the cars end up stuck waiting for construction to clear. We get some Jackie Chan moves and Victor becomes a weird superhero or whatever and it’s obviously hilarious. They then all sprint for the finish line (even though it was a staggered start) ending with the hot ladies winning the prize. THE END.
Why?! It is interesting to think about the motivations for the characters. J.J. and Victor want money and fame, the priests placed a large wager on themselves, the ladies seem to just want to go fast, Roger Moore is for the thrill of it, Terry Bradshaw wants to whoop it up and have fun, Jackie Chan wants to show the superiority of Japanese technology, and the Sheik doesn’t want to bring shame to his family’s name. I think that’s pretty accurate.
What?! There are certainly product placements to note (like Terry Bradshaw crushing Budweisers left and right), but I’m gonna take the rare opportunity to note a rare plot hole in this film. Plot holes are hard to spot, but in this case it’s pretty clear that the creators of this film just didn’t care. It’s explained that the race is run using time cards. Each team punches their card in a staggered start and then whoever has their timecard show the lowest elapsed time is the winner of the race… and yet the film finishes with all the major teams in the film running to the finish line to try to cross first. The time card is never mentioned, nor is it noted that the declared winners (the hot ladies) started earlier than several of the teams shown and should have lost to them. Congrats. That is truly terrible writing.
Who?! There is a classic Planchet in this film, but I’ll use the recap of the second film to discuss that. Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin are in both films and both had major singing careers. Peter Fonda has a cameo as the head of a biker gang in a nod to Easy Rider. Football player Terry Bradshaw is a character in the film. Finally, Jamie Farr plays the Sheik in arab-face which is problematic to say the least. It’s pretty offensive in a very they-made-this-in-the-80s kind of way.
Where?! We get another Road Trip Alert! The Cannonball Run starts in Darien, CT (confirmed by several signs). We get scenes in New Jersey, Ohio, and Missouri in the very least (probably more could be definitively determined). It ends in Redondo Beach, California. Not as good as Crossroads, but solid. B.
When?! My guess would be that the film takes place in the Spring, but it’s not something that I could figure out for sure. Maybe it’s noted somewhere in the film but I sure in hell ain’t going back and watching it again to find out. F.
This movie is surprisingly terrible and useless for being one of the biggest hits of 1981. Let me count the ways. The production is ramshackle, exemplified by the plane stunt where cameras and police barricades are clearly visible. The Middle Eastern character is one of the most racist depictions I’ve seen in a BMT film… his name is Sheik Abdul ben Falafel! Even though I can to appreciate the charm of Dom DeLuise, the film is just not funny. Finally, it has one of the most glaring plot holes I’ve ever witnessed on film. It is just not a good film… and yet America seemed to not be able to get enough. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! Time to pack up your ambulance, grab a disgusting doctor character, and unleash your inner Captain Chaos, because The Cannonball Run is starting. Mad antics like this just haaaave to be funny, right? … Right? Let’s get into it!
The Good – If you like cars, Burt Reynolds, or both this film might just be for you. Farrah Fawcett is like … super attractive. The fact that this is as true to the original race as you’ll see is pretty fun. Some of the others are funny in their own way, Jackie Chan and Roger Moore in particular are fine.
P’s View on the Preview – I told Jamie that I wondered if this would be like Anaconda. If this is one of those films which have bad reviews now, but didn’t really back then (at least not as bad) and that once I watched it I would think it wasn’t nearly as bad as the rating suggests. He told me to watch the movie. But you can kind of see my mindset going into the film. I expected it to be a cult-classic (which was always my perception of it). Boy howdy was I wrong.
The Bad – This movie isn’t funny. Seeing Sammy Davis Jr and Dean Martin doing … this, just isn’t a good look. The movie is just not funny, not a single moment of it. It is a totally mess from a storytelling perspective, less of a three act structure and more of the loosey goosey meandering scripts from the decades before. There is some complicated sexual assault / drugging / disgusting garbage behavior played for laughs which you just couldn’t get away with now. The movie just isn’t funny, it is boring.
Get Yo Rant On – For the first film’s rant I choose to highlight the interactions between Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise in particular. Specifically the way they fake laugh with each other and Burt’s kind of … odd improvisational stylings. Perhaps it is my pre-1980 bias showing, but was this normal? Or was it a product of a very quick and very tight shooting schedule. Did Hal Needham just trust Reynolds to get the comic timing correct, or is this a fundamental disaster. I will say: Burt Reynolds doesn’t really come across as funny in the film. He comes across as a very smooth ladies man and straight man playing off of DeLuise’s comedy … but DeLuise isn’t funny either. No one is funny in this film … I don’t get it, am I taking crazy pills? Rant over.
The BMT – Weirdly … I do think this has legs. Cannonball Run films are a very strange as specific sub-genre. Almost exclusively comedies (interestingly enough). I wonder if there is an example of a serious version of Cannonball Run? And if not, why not? I guess it was all played for jokes at the time, but someone who really needs the money or someone who needs to stop another person from getting the money seems like a decent action premise. My point is, completing the Cannonball Run genre will be a thing and this will be part of it. I will never watch this film again if I can help it though.
Welcome to Earf – Shockingly easy in light on last week’s run. Burt Reynolds was in The Cannonball Run and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale with Leelee Sobieski who was in Here on Earth. Welcome to Earf!
StreetCreditReport.com – This one doesn’t have much beyond most respectable critics at the time ragging on it. In particular Siskel and Ebert seemed to think this was a particularly egregious example of lazy filmmaking. Maybe Lennon and Garant can fix it the next time around …
Phew, one Cannonball Run down, one to go. The second couldn’t possibly be as bad as this right? … Right?