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The Cannonball Run
1981 - PG - 95 Mins.
Director: Hal Needham
Producer: Albert S. Ruddy, Raymond Chow
Written By: Brock Yates
Starring: Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin
Review by: Jake Cremins

A group of ten or possibly five hundred people act kooky in a typical scene from \'Cannonball Run.\'
Yes, 'The Cannonball Run' is bad. It's shapeless, pointless, and sometimes downright embarrassing. It's a waste of time, money and talent. The plot is handled so lazily that, by the end of the big cross-country road race, the movie has actually forgotten its own rules (in which the point is not that you get there first, but fastest, since the cars don't leave at the same time). Of course, the winner still wins fair and square by being the only person to bother crossing the finish line; everyone else is busy lining up to get champagne, because (as you know) having a party is the perfect remedy for 34 straight hours of driving.

So yes, it's bad, and yet I have a small guilty affection for it. 'Cannonball Run' isn't funny enough by a long shot--by the end, the rules of illegal cross-country road racing are all we have left to think about--but there are about enough funny things in it to hint at what might have been. I liked the sheer weirdness of Roger Moore's character, a deranged guy named Seymour Goldfarb who lives under the delusion that he's actually Roger Moore. A lot more could have been done with him, but what's there is amusing; he resolves an argument with his mother by pointing a snubnose at her, and every time we see him driving he's expounding upon his endless appeal to a different glamorous woman. The women Moore rides with drop out of thin air, apparently, so that they can look glamorous, note their amazement that they're riding in a car with Roger Moore, and vanish with equal speed; if that's not an accurate James Bond joke, I don't know what is.

Other cast members include Adrienne Barbeau, as half of a two-woman team with a foolproof way to avoid speeding tickets, and Burt Reynolds as a racer who figures out an equally foolproof but less entertaining way to avoid speeding tickets. (If the movie had a plot, most of it would revolve around avoiding speeding tickets.) Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. appear as a couple of racers who drink endlessly and dress up as priests, but alas, I never found Rat Pack movies funny and nothing in this one changed my mind. Farrah Fawcett is the beautiful woman provided for Burt to make eyes at, and her performance is so spacey and detached that for the first couple of minutes it's hilarious, though we soon begin to worry about her. Jackie Chan appears so that Golden Harvest, the producing company, can usher him into America; he is provided with a souped-up computerized car and one contractually obligated kung fu fight. (The movie's greatest mystery may be why his character is supposed to be Japanese, but what a mystery it is: if the rumor is true, he didn't know that himself until he saw the movie.)

You may have noticed that I'm just filling up space. There's really nothing to describe. If you look at the poster, you've mastered the plot. Either you get a mildly embarrassing pleasure out of seeing a dumb comedy with zippy cars and tacky B-list celebrity cameos, or you don't and never will. As far as these things go, sometimes 'Cannonball Run' is enjoyable, sometimes it's enjoyably bad, sometimes it's just bad. Feminists certainly won't enjoy it, if only because 'Stroker Ace' is so much juicier a target. 'Smokey and the Bandit' is a lot better, but then again this is better than 'Smokey and the Bandit 2.' I could go on like this all day.

In closing I'd like to discuss the end-credit outtakes, or rather Adrienne Barbeau's role in them. This is a woman who can't say a line without tricking us into thinking it's intelligent--she played Bea Arthur's daughter on "Maude," for crying out loud--and here she is in a movie where her character's function is as a life-support system for her cleavage. Anyway, she appears in the last outtake. Watch for her; she's on the right side of the screen. Consider her reaction to what's going on in front of her. The look on her face is to this movie what a Get Out Of Jail Free card is to Monopoly.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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