The Cannonball Run (1981)

The Cannonball Will Fall to the Forces of Islam!

The only inspiration I can think of for why I would watch today’s movie is the fact that it’s regarded as a classic.  Today was basically just another opportunity to fill gaps in my movie repertoire.  I will share with you what I knew about the movie coming in.  The movie is a comedy, it stars a lot of famous people, and those people are driving cars with a fair degree of frequency in the movie.  That is all.  But it’s a classic and I need to see them all.  How will I ever be taken seriously if I’ve never seen all the classically referenced movies throughout history?  …EXACTLY!  Well I put the movie on my Netflix queue and it showed up, and that brings us to my review of The Cannonball Run, written by Brock Yates, Hal Needham, and starring Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, Jack Elam, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., George Furth, Roger Moore, Adrienne Barbeau, Tara Buckman, Warren Berlinger, Bert Convy, Jackie Chan, Michael Hui, Jamie Farr, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Tillis, Rick Aviles, Alfie Wise, and Peter Fonda.

A group of people get together with vastly different ideas on how to win a cross-country race called the Cannonball Run.  The main characters are J.J. McClure (Burt Reynolds) and his partner Victor Prinzi (Dom DeLuise), who have decided to drive an ambulance to avoid getting arrested.  A drunkard named Jamie Blake (Dean Martin) and compulsive gambler Morris Fenderbaum (Sammy Davis Jr.) dress as priests and drive a red Ferrari.  Marcie Thatcher (Adrienne Barbeau) and Jill Rivers (Tara Buckman) drive a black Lamborghini and wear skintight racing suits that they’re more than happy to zip the front down on to get out of a ticket.  Jackie Chan (Jackie Chan) and his engineer (Michael Hui) drive a high-tech, souped-up Subaru GL.  Seymour Goldfarb Jr. (Roger Moore) believes himself to be Roger Moore as James Bond and drives, of course, an Aston Martin.  Add two hicks (Terry Bradshaw and Mel Tillis), a Sheikh (Jamie Farr), a crazy doctor (Jack Elam), and a love story between J.J. and a tree-loving photographer (Farrah Fawcett) and you’ve got enough foundation for a movie.

I can’t say I’m fully clear on why this movie is popular.  It wasn’t a horrible movie to watch, but it really seemed completely pointless.  The movie feels like watching a cartoon in that the situations are ridiculous, the characters are way over the top, and there’s next to no point to the movie in the first place.  Basically, I didn’t enjoy watching the movie but, as best I can tell, they seemed to think it was hilarious.  You can see this in the outtakes that run over the end credits.  They were semi-constantly cracking themselves up, seemingly over nothing.  If only they had the ability to share that joy with the audience.  The only thing that really made me laugh in the writing of this movie was when Dean Martin was complaining that they should’ve been Methodists instead of Catholics because then they’d get laid.  I can attest to the fact that this is not true at all.  There’s one thing that I felt was truly watchable about this movie and it was the stunts.  They do a lot of really interesting things with the vehicles in this movie.  And not just the basic stuff that you’d expect, like driving really fast on freeways in super-fast cars.  Early on in the movie, they land a small plane on the surface streets of a town so that J.J. can pick up beer.  Through the entire race, the motorcycle team is driving cross country in a total wheelie as a cheap joke about the weight that the guy on the back of the bike has put on.  It’s a dumb joke, but a spectacular stunt.  There’s also a part where the James Bond car shoots out oil and the spin that the pursuing cop car goes into was the most violent and fastest spins I’ve ever seen a car go into.  They also have Jackie Chan’s car make a jump that they claim is rocket propelled.  Speaking of Jackie Chan, they also have a part in the movie where he fights a bunch of bikers that was probably the worst fight he’s ever participated in, but less because of him and more because of the team of Americans that probably had little experience dealing with this kind of fight scene.

As for the performances, I maybe liked about half of them.  Burt Reynolds didn’t seem that interested in participating in the movie, but this was actually a positive in this case as no one else in the movie seemed to understand the principles of restraint, or the benefit of being low key.  Dom DeLuise was possibly the best example of this.  First off, the guy looks like Mario from the Nintendo universe throughout the movie, but he also randomly decides to put on a superhero costume every now and then, just to make himself more annoying.  The other half of their travelling troupe was always enjoyable though.  First of all was Farrah Fawcett.  She didn’t do anything particularly bad or good in her performance, but boy was she ever a pleasure to look at.  The second part of it was Jack Elam as the crazy doctor Van Helsing, who was actually a proctologist.  He was pretty wacky, but I actually found him pretty amusing.  For much the same reason I appreciated Farrah Fawcett, I had the same appreciation for Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman.  They didn’t impress in their performance, but they had some great cleavage.  Being too young to have much appreciation for the Rat Pack, the only thing I found interesting about Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. was that I wasn’t entirely convinced that Dean Martin was just acting drunk for his role.  I also thought the concept of Roger Moore’s character was amusing, but they never really mined in for any comedy.

I knew that Cannonball Run was regarded as a classic, but now that I’ve seen it, I have no idea why.  The movie doesn’t take itself seriously, and certainly makes no particular focus on the story, but if they were focused on the comedy of the movie they failed in almost every occasion.  It’s like a cartoon, but forgets that cartoons are made for stupid kids so they still made the movie too mature for the only audience that would find it funny.  The majority of the performances in the movie were either way over the top or somewhat disinterested in participating in the movie, but the stunts were pretty outstanding.  I’m happy that I’ve filled a gap in my movie knowledge by watching this movie, but I wish it had been any good.  You can skip it.  The Cannonball Run gets “These people make terrorists look like the Sisters of Charity!” out of “Da-Duh-DUUUUMB!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

If He’d Pay Me What He’s Spending to Make Me Stop Robbing Him, I’d Stop Robbing Him!

The impetus for today’s review came from amidst my birthday movie genre contest.  By the time I had finally reached the Western category, I had gotten my opinions on movies questioned and ridiculed so much that I started to doubt my decision to pick the Quick and the Dead.  I’m actually a very delicate creature, after all.  As a result, I did research on other potential candidates for westerns to see if there were any I wasn’t thinking of.  In the end, I realized that I was forgetting my lifelong “fuck you guys” strategy in regards to people disagreeing with my opinions and went with my original choice, but one more did catch my attention from my research.  When I later came across the BluRay of the same movie for only $8, it seemed fortuitous.  And that leads us inexorably to my review of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, written by William Goldman, directed by George Roy Hill, and starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Jeff Corey, Strother Martin, Henry Jones, George Furth, Cloris Leachman, Ted Cassidy, Kenneth Mars, and Donnelly Rhodes.

In short, this movie is the story of Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford).  Is it an accurate story of Butch and Sundance?  How the hell should I know?!  Butch is the talker; he always has a plan and he can often talk his way out of situations.  If that doesn’t work, Sundance is the one that kills people with guns, and does so really well.  In the beginning, the duo – along with their gang, the Hole-in-the-Wall gang – are comfortable with just robbing banks and train cars, but eventually their continued robberies on the same money owned by E. H. Harriman leads Harriman to hire a renowned Indian tracker called “Lord Baltimore” and a relentless lawman named Joe LeFors.  After barely escaping with their lives, Butch decides that he and Sundance should move to Bolivia along with Sundance’s girlfriend, school teacher Etta Place (Katharine Ross).  There, they resume robbing banks after Etta teaches them enough Spanish to get the job done.  But, it’s only a matter of time until their robbing ways catch up with them.

The research I did was right: this is indeed a really good movie.  There are a couple of things that date the movie in a really weird way, but it holds up very well for the most part.  The basic premise of the story probably just comes from the legends of the characters the movie’s based on, but the added stuff – like the little moments, the dialogue, and the chemistry between Butch and Sundance – all sell the movie even more.  The bulk of the story happens in about three parts.  It starts off with everything being relatively peachy for the gang as they rob banks.  They then spend a very good amount of time on the run from Lord Baltimore (which I, of course, heard Lord Voldemort) and LeFors (who I thought was a character from Mallrats).  And then it ends up a lot like the first part in a more colorful setting.  The story itself doesn’t impress in any grand way, but the dialogue and the characters charmed me.  I first got on board when one of the members of the gang tried to stage a coup on Butch by way of a knife fight.  Butch says, “Let’s get the rules straight,” to which the would-be leader replies, “There’s no rules in a knife fight,” and Butch responds with a kick to the balls, saying, “Well if there’s no rules, then let’s get to fighting.”  Later, when Butch is trying to explain to Sundance why they should jump off of a cliff into the water to escape their pursuers, he says, “Would you make a jump like that if you didn’t have to?” and Sundance responds, “I have to make the jump and I’m still not gonna.”  I would definitely admit that there are a few parts to this movie that really date it and waste the time of the audience at the same time, like the part where Etta and Butch are riding a bicycle.  “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” is playing while they’re doing it, and there’s really not any purpose to the scene.  And, if you know the song, it really doesn’t have any place in a western.  In fact, it happened on more than one occasion that the music seemed to fit more in the time the movie was filmed than the time the movie was set in, and I just found it very distracting.  There was also a part where Butch was trying to enjoy the company of a prostitute, but kept getting distracted by Sundance, who was looking out the window to see if they were still being pursued.  Butch kept criticizing Sundance for doing it, but what is the alternative here?  Turn around and watch you bang a whore?  I’ll stick to my window, thankyouverymuch.

I was very fond of the look of the movie as well.  At first I was worried because it seemed like it was going to be in black and white, and those movies tend to be boring, at least visually.  But it just starts out in sepia tone and turns to color.  And the color is mostly great, especially once they get to Bolivia and the scenery is prettier.  They also went for some artistic shots that I usually find pretentious, but I actually liked the few they went for here.  One example is right as the group is leaving for Bolivia and Butch pushes the bicycle out into a small stream, leaving the camera watching the slowly turning bike tire as the color turned back to sepia for a bit.  They also had a cool bit of montage as Butch, Sundance, and Etta were robbing banks in Bolivia where the scenes were played without the sound of the scene, relying only on the physical performance of the actors, but it was done so well that you could tell exactly what was going on in the scene.  Granted, this was one of those occasions where the music was distractingly out of place, but it didn’t stop me from being impressed with everything else.  The action in this movie was spread out pretty far, having only a few sparse moments of fist fights and/or gun fights, but the ones they had were enjoyable.  Sundance killed people like a boss on more than one occasion, and it was a pleasure to watch.

There really weren’t that many performances to pay any mind to in this movie, but the ones that were all did excellent jobs.  The three people worth paying attention to were Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Katharine Ross, and all of them were great.  Paul Newman’s Butch Cassidy was extremely charming, and Robert Redford’s Sundance Kid was a total badass.  Both of them were exceptionally likeable, even though they were technically bad guys.  Katharine Ross didn’t really give me anything to say as she wasn’t in the movie that often, but she was good when she was there.  I did get curious for a time about who in the group she was technically with, or if she was just being passed around between Butch and Sundance, but that was about all I had on her.

I’m generally not big on older movies, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a flat out good movie.  The story keeps you involved almost the entire way through, though it wastes a little bit of time with a couple of needless scenes, most specifically involving a bicycle.  But I really liked the main characters and the chemistry they had together, and the action, though rare, was pretty awesome.  Lots of fun to be had in this movie and I really enjoyed the ride.  I definitely recommend you check out this movie, through whatever method you can.  I was able to pick this movie up at Best Buy for only $8, and it’s more than worth it.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid gets “Small price to pay for beauty” out of “Oh, good.  For a moment there I thought we were in trouble.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.