The Cannonball Run Reviews
Based entirely on an actual unofficial, unsanctioned street race during the 70's, this movie is just that, a long street race from one side of the country to the other. There really is nothing more to this movie than that, a long running chase sequence filled with stunts, crashes and lots of inside jokes. The various characters are always trying to screw each other over, desperately trying to gain the advantage both time and distance wise, whilst avoiding smokey (highway patrols).
The collection of racers are basically a bunch of misfits and eccentrics all driving the vehicle of their choice. The characters and the cast that play them are the carrot on the stick for the movie, its a big ensemble of cult and classic stars of the time. Next to that its all about the vehicles, the plot...what plot? Of course this being a Hal Needham car flick he utilises his two main stars from his previous fast car flick (amongst others).
There isn't any particular protagonist in this movie but the duo of Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise tend to be the pack leaders obviously. They both drive a souped-up ambulance with Jack Elam on-board as the good doctor Nikolas Van Helsing (could of used a bit more imagination with that name). The sporadic moments of DeLuise as Captain Chaos are easily a guilty pleasure, even though you know its infantile nonsense.
The legendary pairing of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. as a dunken, gambling obsessed duo dressed up as Catholic priests in a red Ferrari, was (and is) pretty fresh. These two serve up much of the comedy as they bumble their way across the country, a surprisingly solid little Laurel and Hardy act.
Tara Buckman and John Carpenter movie regular Adrienne Barbeau are the sexy catsuit wearing Lambo drivers. The stereotypical bimbos in a fast car that use their assets to get out of trouble.
This was Jackie Chan's second western movie, playing a sort of nerdy high-tec wizard who could of course kick ass. Chan and his partner Michael Hui race in a Subaru GL 4WD that has been kitted out with all sorts of computer gadgetry including radar, a rocket boosted engine, infrared sensors etc...Clearly playing on the old stereotype that people from Orient (China and Japan) are geeky techno geniuses with in depth martial arts knowledge...kinda true though.
Did I mention Hal Needham is the director here? Well if the 'Smokey and the Bandit' in-jokes , the casting of Reynolds and DeLuise and the fact this movie is kinda the same as said movie, didn't tip you off, then surely the inclusion of some good ol' redneck boys will. Can't not have some Confederate flag waving southern boys racing, a staple ingredient of Needham car flicks...along with Reynolds.
In one of the more amusing and intriguing character roles is Roger Moore...playing himself...kinda. Moore actually plays a character called Seymour Goldfarb Jr. yet this character goes by the name Roger Moore in the film. So...this character, played by Roger Moore, thinks he is the real Roger Moore, when he isn't. Not only that but this confused character drives a silver Aston Martin DB5 which is laden with all the expected gadgets and tricks. Whenever he is on screen a familiar little soundtrack plays, he does refer to his past playing a certain famous character, and he's always got a different beautiful woman in his car in every scene.
Lastly we have the Sheikh (Jamie Farr) in his white Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, accompanied by his sister (Bianca Jagger), who can buy his way out of anything. The only character to pop up in all three movies of this franchise and another ropy stereotype.
The whole point to this movie (like most of Needham's movies) is to focus solely on the cars and occasionally the characters that drive them. You know exactly what to expect from the get-go as we've seen it all before in his other Burt Reynolds fast car franchise. Lots of smoking tyre spinning, off-road tomfoolery, skids, doughnuts, helpless/useless police units and massive amounts of automobile carnage. At times these sequences get interspersed with some character and plot development, but not much of it ever builds up to anything important and half the time it gets interrupted by some hideous incident involving a big stunt.
In all honesty the movie can't live up to those first five electric minutes with the Lambo chase. That sequence is so unbelievably slick n sexy. The black Lambo screeches up to that 'SPEED LIMIT 55' sign, out jumps a slim sexy 80's blonde, graffitis it, jumps back in and zooms away. This short intro is epic in every sense, it gets your pulse racing, its exciting, thrilling and makes you wanna drive dangerously immediately, eat your heart out 'The Fast and Furious'. Not only that but the movies trailer is kickass too! the movie looks and sounds awesome, its just a shame this isn't an accurate representation of the whole flick.
Alas it all feels like a big fun vacation for the Hollywood elite. Its like they made a movie for themselves stuffed with inside jokes, nods, winks and cameos galore! getting all their buddies on-board. Its overloaded with dated stereotypes, visuals and even the odd controversial comment. Still there is some cracking car porn here for fans and some stunts are impressive no doubt. A cult movie in a cult genre, unless you're into it you may not like it.
If you took "Death Race 2000", took out all of the blood, all of the nudity, made it unfunny, boring and only had the racing begin halfway through the film you would have a pretty awful movie. Well, 1981 brought us just that! "The Canonball Run", a lousy, offensive comedy that shows that just because the stars are having a good time, it doesn't mean that anyone else will. The film is about a cross-country car race across the United States, where teams of two or more racers compete for no prize at all besides bragging rights (how exciting!) The team we're supposed to be cheering for is J.J. McClure (Burt Reynolds) and the sidekick he has abused into submission, Victor Prinzim (Dom DeLuise). Every team has to have a strategy to avoid getting busted by the cops during this outlawed race so these guys come up with the actually pretty ingenious idea of empowering what looks like an ambulance with a powerful motor. To make the ruse more authentic, they hire an insane doctor, Dr. Nikolas Van Helsing (Jack Elam) to stay inside the ambulance if they get pulled over. Against the heroes are a slew of wacky racers, including Jackie Chan and Michael Hui as Japanese drivers with a high-tech car; Jamie Farr as an Arabian Sheik; Roger Moore as what is either himself, a Roger Moore impersonator, or a man named Seymour Goldfarb who is a secret agent, an assassin and a philanthropist who also acts in films under the pseudonym of Roger Moore; Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. as two drunks pretending to be catholic priests, two spandex-clad hotties who seduce their way through their speeding tickets (played by Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman) and more. Because J.J. is a nearly psychopathic horn-dog, he and his team also kidnap an airhead tree hugger they brainwash into calling herself "Beauty" along for the ride (Farrah Fawcett).
This film was an absolute chore to watch. It's extremely predictable and further hindering the movie is the fact that we do not see our protagonists race until 42 minutes into the movie. I've forgiven films for starting up slowly before because they were setting up a big story or developing the characters but everyone here is a one-joke paper cut-out that isn't the least bit exciting. Burt Reynolds is a player who always has one eye on the finish line and the other peering down the shirt of every girl in the vicinity. Dom DeLuise is an idiot with a split personality that we're supposed to love because he was a kind heart and is the constant butt of jokes. I hated the both of them... almost as much as Farrah Fawcett's character Beauty. She literally gets kidnapped, drugged and dragged across the United States against her will and barely protests. When her character is introduced, she's a total ditz, meant to be sexually ogled by the audience and the people in the film and it gets really old really quickly. At first, the film threw me for a loop. When she is introduced, she comes off as the kind of person who would be against an illegal car race because she's hanging out with some hippy stereotypes with sticks up their butts. I figured she would be somehow roped into joining the race and would argue with J.J. constantly until they inevitably fell in love. "At least, (I thought to myself) she isn't a dumb, ditzy blonde that joined up with the level 3 vegan assembly without knowing what she was getting into. If that was the case, she would be too stupid to argue against J.J. and would, as the film goes along lose more and more clothing to make her an obvious sex object". Just a few scenes later and we can see her wearing a white sweatshirt and no bra underneath, ready to be fooled by the dumbest lies and convinced to abandon her name because of J.J.'s charms.
Forget that the characters are bland and that the film is boring, the least it could do is be either funny or charming. It's neither. It plays like an inside joke between this group of friends that are having a great time and don't care who they are alienating. It's like everyone was having such a good time they didn't realize how downright offensive the movie gets. Take for example the introduction of the "Japanese Team". They cast Jackie Chan, who is Chinese, as one of the racers. As for his girlfriend, "the top movie star of Japan", she's clearly Filipino and is described as appearing in many Godzilla movies. We've got the broadest stereotype of Arabs in the form of the Sheik, several jabs at Jews and we're supposed to let it slide because these actors were having a good time? I rolled my eyes at the endless Roger Moore-James Bond references. We get it! You played 007! Can we move on? Yeah, Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman are attractive, but they don't do anything with these characters. I would have laughed hard at an obvious joke they SHOULD have done, which was see these two being held up for a half hour while a particularly frisky state trooper insisted on strip-searching them after they attempts at seducing him. That would have been clever though and there's nothing clever in this movie.
I didn't absolutely loathe this film as much as I did say... "Freddy Got Fingered" but I cannot think of a single thing that was good about this movie. Some people would say the stunts and yeah, a couple of them are good but the terrible fight choreography edges that out. I found it unimaginative, offensive and worst of all completely boring. I cannot think of anyone I would ever recommend the film to so I have to be honest and give this film a 0 / 5. Don't watch it and stay away from the sequels, which I hear are even worse. (On Dvd, May 8, 2014)