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!”
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