The Cannonball Run (1981) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG for language, mild violence and sexual innuendo (probably PG-13 today)
Running Time: 95 min.
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore, George Furth, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Jackie Chan, Bert Convy, Jack Elam, Jamie Farr, Adrienne Barbeau, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Tillis
Director: Hal Needham
Screenplay: Brock Yates
Review published March 20, 2002
Cannonball Run was a childhood favorite of mine and is one of my all-time guiltiest pleasures. The reason I like the film doesn't stem from the usual things -- I am not a fan of any of the actors (except Jackie Chan, The Big Brawl), I don't think it's particularly brilliant in the writing or direction department, and the car chases are certainly not particularly appealing to me. What this movie has is oodles of cast chemistry, and it's very clear that the entire cast and crew enjoyed making it, with almost everyone looking like they are on the verge of laughter throughout the film (the end of film bloopers bears proof of this well). It's also an inspired idea for a movie, based on an actual race which took place in the 70s (reportedly started by screenwriter Yates, Smokey and the Bandit II), and the plethora of colorful characters interacting with each other proves to be great fun.
Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights, Mystery Alaska) stars as J.J. McClure, a thrill-seeker who decides to enter an illegal coast-to-coast car race that draws in contestants from all around the world. It's dog-eat-dog, as the contestants do everything they can to be the first to cross the finish line, while also trying to avoid getting in trouble from the highway patrol along the way.
It's nothing too deep, but it doesn't try to be. Cannonball Run is a pure entertainment movie that does deliver the goods for all those who seek a few chuckles and goofy characters to follow. The multitudinous character actors are a joy to watch, with solid chemistry between the chosen partners, especially the Reynolds/DeLuise and Dean Martin/Sammy Davis Jr. combos. This also marks the first American film appearance of future world action superstar Jackie Chan, playing a Japanese race driver who speaks Cantonese (Jackie reportedly is upset at not being informed of this). Fun is also had watching Roger Moore (Octopussy, The Spy Who Loved Me) spoof his James Bond image with some homages to some of the gadgets in the films themselves. On the downside, this is not a film that will earn many points from the politically correct crowd.
With excellent stunt work, an impressive cast, and a heaping helping of fun makes Cannonball Run an entertaining 90 minutes for those who expect hot cars, hotter women, and lots of crazy set pieces. Not really a hit with the critics, this is fan favorite material all of the way.
©2002 Vince Leo