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.

Spice World (1998)

No More Mr. Nice Spice

Today I get back into the long neglected list of review recommendations that I had to put on hold for most of October. Today’s movie was requested by my friend Amanda, probably with the express desire to torture me for her own twisted enjoyment. Well I am not one to back down from a challenge, so I bring to you one of the movies that will no doubt revolutionize cinema, winner of 47 Academy Awards, one for “Best Movie Ever”: Spice World, directed (I was as surprised as you that someone directed this) by Bob Spiers, and starring (in order of hottest to least hot) Melanie Chisholm, Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Melanie Brown, and Geri Halliwell, as well as Richard E. Grant, Alan Cumming, George Wendt, Mark McKinney, Roger Moore, Meat Loaf, Barry Humphries, Naoko Mori, and Claire Rushbrook.

Let’s summarize. … Uh … Well … It’s basically all about the Spice Girls (Melanie Chisholm as Sporty Spice, Victoria Beckham as Posh Spice, Emma Bunton as Baby Spice, Melanie Brown as Scary Spice, and Geri Halliwell as Ginger Spice) and how they love being famous and getting to write movies about how awesome and funny they are, but they’re also sad because they work all the time and they know an Asian person who’s having a baby (Naoko Mori). They go through a bunch of things to prepare for their big show, some guy irrationally decides he needs to destroy the cultural phenomenon known as the Spice Girls by getting a paparazzi to take pictures of them and have them be misconstrued, and there’s also a camera crew making a documentary about them. In the end, they are there for the birth of the tiny Asian person, they do their show, they make the paparazzi see the error of his ways by making him hit his head on a wall, and there’s also a camera crew making a documentary about them. That’s the movie. Fill some time with random scenes about Mark McKinney pitching TV show ideas starring the Spice Girls, fill it end to end with Spice Girls music, and call that movie Spice World.

What can one expect out of a movie about the Spice Girls? You expect to see 5 attractive ladies spout some nonsense about “Girl Power”, sing a bunch of songs, and have no real point. Congratulations, that’s what you get here. The story has as little point to it as the Spice Girls themselves. Obviously it’s going to be chock full of Spice Girls songs, so your feelings about those songs will inevitably influence your feelings about the movie itself. Personally, I accept the Spice Girls music for what it is. They’re pop songs. Catchy enough, their voices aren’t the worst thing ever, and they don’t mean very much. But they are catchy and not horrible. And, since the movie is mostly like a music video or a live concert video, you’ll have plenty of time to figure out how you feel about their music. The rest of the movie is definitely strange. The girls try to be funny but never really succeed, and causing me to smack myself in the forehead on more than one occasion. Their attempts end up being more adorable than anything else. It’s like when a child tells you a joke. It’s not funny and they probably didn’t tell the joke very well, but it’s cute that they tried. They also seemingly decided to add in dream sequences and imaginary situations of things they thought would be funny, but they were mostly strange and out of place. One of them was a TV pitch for a crime fighting show where each one had their own specialty, like Mistress of Disguise Ginger Spice that can walk into a phone booth and become Bob Hoskins. But there was truly no point to these little sketches and, since they weren’t funny, they kind of wasted my time. There were plenty of other things that were ridiculous in this movie. The girls traveled around in a bus that was about 4 times as big on the inside as it was on the outside.

The acting was … the Spice Girls. Even though they complained at one point about being typecast as their self-imposed titles, they did everything they could in their performances to exemplify them. On their illogical bus, they even had their own compartments that helped them stereotype themselves. Sporty spends most of her time on the bus on an elliptical machine, chases down enemies of the girls, and wears track suits and tank tops. Posh has a catwalk on the bus, is always dressed up and talking about clothes, and acts pretty snooty. Baby has a swing on the bus, can apparently get the Spice Girls out of trouble like large scale destruction with her innocence, and often talks about stuffed animals. Scary and Ginger didn’t have anything in particular on the bus, but Scary did like to make scary faces at the fish on the bus and Ginger had red drapes that I’m sure matches the carpet. I did spend most of the movie wondering why most people I remember hearing from thought Ginger was the best looking. In this movie, I never found her attractive. I wouldn’t kick her out of bed or anything, but she was the least attractive of the five. I’m a Sporty man, myself. Potential lesbianism be damned! Beyond them, this movie was ridiculous with cameos by far more talented people. Meat Loaf was their bus driver, Elvis Costello was a bartender, and Elton John showed up as someone that would be interested in 5 attractive women kissing him. I assume that, once you’re big and famous, you would only do a bit part in something you desired to support, so what were they doing here?

Beyond showing lots of scenes of 5 attractive women with attractive accents, this movie only serves to remind me of the world as it was back in 1998, when the world would accept a musical act just because the women were attractive, wore wacky outfits, had moderate singing abilities, and acted like what they were doing meant something more than making them a ton of money. And in a world with Katy Perry’s and Lady GaGa’s, we are far too intelligent to fall for that again. … Anyways, you don’t need to see this movie. You may laugh during the movie, but more “at” than “with”. Still, it’s not the worst thing you could sit through. I’ll give Spice World “Call Hootie and the Blowfish” out of “We need five for the power of Spice.”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!