Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The Cannonball Run is a wild and raucous comedy smash that hit theaters in 1981. The film, directed by Hal Needham, centered around an illegal cross-country car race from Connecticut to California. The top prize was a million bucks. Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise headline an ensemble cast, featuring Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore, Adrienne Barbeau, Jackie Chan, Jamie Farr, Peter Fonda, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Tillis, and many others.
Burt Reynold stars as J.J. McClure, a randy race car driver who has seen better days. Dom DeLuise plays his mild-mannered buddy, Victor Prinzim, who is a mechanic. Victor morphs into the courageous and strong Captain Chaos in times of danger. They decide to run the Cannonball race in a modified ambulance. To appear more legit to any police that might stop them, they hire Nikolas Van Helsing, an inebriated and creepy doctor, played by Jack Elam. Once the race starts, they come across a minor accident involving Arthur J. Foyt and Pamela Glover. Foyt, played by George Furth, is a government official who is trying everything in his power to stop the Cannonball race. He's an anti-car activist because of environmental and safety issues. Foyt spends the movie doing all he can to catch various Cannonballers, which leads to some pretty hilarious moments. The guys end up kidnapping Pamela, a photographer who loves trees, to act as their patient. Pamela, played by Farrah Fawcett, is at one point drugged and masqueraded as a Senator's daughter being rushed to UCLA for emergency medical care.
Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. are partners in the movie. Dino plays Jamie Blake, a former race car driver. Sammy plays con artist Morris Fenderbaum. They disguise themselves as Catholic priests, while driving a red Ferrari in the race. Some of the funniest lines in the film come from the womanizing lush Father Dino as he's flirting with any beautiful girl he comes across. He tells someone that he's from a more liberal wing of the Church. He also complains that if he was a Methodist then he would be getting laid that night. Dino and Sammy practically steal this movie. I'm not just saying that because I'm a big fan. They have such wonderful chemistry, working well off one another. The teams of McClure/Prinzim and Blake/Fenderbaum are always trying to one up each other. When Blake is supposedly blessing the ambulance and its occupants, Fenderbaum is letting the air out of the tires. J.J. and Victor get their revenge by informing the police that the two are flashing perverts. Later on during a heated moment of name calling, Sammy's Fenderbaum gets called a "chocolate monk."
Roger Moore plays the character of Seymour Goldfarb, Jr. , who is a parody of himself and James Bond. The Jewish Goldfarb, an heir to the family's girdle fortune, pretends to be Roger Moore. He, of course, displays many Bondish qualities in the way he acts. He even drives an Aston Martin as his race car, using Bond-styled gadgetry to elude the authorities, etc. Besides the scene when Seymour's mother confronts him about pretending to be a goy actor, another funny scene is when one of the girls riding with him mistakes Goldfarb for George Hamilton, but not Roger Moore. After this film was released, it's rumored that Bond producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli made Moore sign a contract forbidding him to spoof or refer to 007 in any non-Bond film.
Some of the other Cannonballers are worth mentioning here as well. Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman are the Lamborghini babes, Marcie and Jill. The girls, clad in tight Spandex race suits, unzipped enough to show off some sexy cleavage to any cops who might stop them. This did, however, backfire on them once when they are stopped by a female police officer. Jackie Chan plays Jackie Chan, the Japanese driver of a Subaru, packed with computers and high-tech gadgets. Michael Yui plays the Subaru's engineer and navigator. They are able to cut the Subaru's headlights out and drive in the dark. One of the coolest scenes in the movie is a big fight scene involving a biker gang, which is led by Peter Fonda. Jackie's martial art skills are on fine display here. Captain Chaos is pretty funny in this scene as he whips some biker ass. Jamie Farr plays Sheik Abdul Ben Falafel, a wealthy Arab oil baron. He races a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. Terry Bradshaw and Mel Tillis play Terry and Mel, a couple of rednecks who race a Hawaiian Tropic Chevy Malibu stock car. There are more Cannonballers, but these are some of the more popular ones featured in the movie.
So who wins the Cannonball race in the end? I'm sure not going to tell you that if you haven't seen it. Rent it and see for yourself. There was a sequel in 1984 that featured much of the cast from the first movie. I've heard mixed reaction from fans about the sequel. While I do think it's inferior in many ways to the first one, it's still a pretty enjoyable movie. It's got some good laughs and action, especially from Dino and Sammy. It's also got quite a few new additions to the cast, such as Ricardo Montalban, Shirley MacLaine, Marilu Henner, Telly Savalas, Charles Nelson Reilly, Doug McClure, Catherine Bach, Susan Anton, Tony Danza, Frank Sinatra, and several others. I would recommend it, but it's not the cult classic that the first one is to me.
Is The Cannonball Run a high brow film that should have won lots of Oscars? Of course, it isn't in the least. Most critics hated this move and savaged it in reviews. Do we really care what the critics think? I know I don't give a flip what some stuffed shirt elitist thinks of this fan favorite. This movie doesn't take itself too seriously. The various stars here are collecting a paycheck, while having lots of fun doing it. It's got fast cars, hot babes, lots of action, funny gags, and so on. It's great escapist fun for a little over 90 minutes. I loved this movie as a kid, and you know what, I still love it as an adult. Watching this movie always reminds me of all these stars that I remember seeing in movies, tv shows, and games shows when I was a kid. There is so much great chemistry going on here. The two teams of Burt/Dom and Dino/Sammy are fantastic in any scene they are in. They work well off one another. It's really fun when all four of these guys on are screen at the same time. Besides these four guys, the movie belongs to Roger Moore. While never my favorite 007, Moore does a good job parodying himself and Bond in this movie. He is quite good at more lighthearted comedy.
This movie also featured bloopers during the closing credits. Director Hal Needham had already done this with movies, such as Smokey and the Bandit, which also starred Burt Reynolds. Jackie Chan was inspired to do this in the closing credits of most of his movies. The movie looks like it was a blast to make, plus I know it's a blast to watch. It's one of the best fun flicks of the 80's. If you've never seen this movie before, you definitely need to give it a rent. If you've got any sense of humor at all, you'll get quite a few chuckles out of watching it. If you've watched this before, you might want to give it another viewing. I know that I'm itching to pop it in again. Put the pedal to the metal, but watch out for those boys in blue.