The Cannonball Run (1981)
Directed by Hal Needham
Written by Brock Yates

Apparently Smokey and the Bandit II was too serious, too tightly scripted and brilliantly performed, and didn't feature nearly enough car chases, property destruction, or flagrant drunk driving. Clearly the situation needed remedy.

Cannonball Run makes the Smokey movies, or even those Clint Eastwood movies with the chimp, seem like Merchant-Ivory productions. It's probably the most purely gonzo, out-of-control, careening coal train of a movie ever made. Most of the time, it doesn't even seem like a movie, it seems like a drunken celebrity picnic.

This is a good thing, of course. While not much of its intended humor is all that funny (Nixon impersonation, numerous proctology jokes), the sheer jaw-dropping mindfuck of it all is undeniable. Actors slur their way through easy lines, making no attempt to hide their insobriety or contempt for the project. Cars crash through front windows and into pools, almost invariably. Burt Reynolds viciously slaps Dom DeLuise. A lot.

The saddest participant is surely Dean Martin, who is nearly fall-down drunk the whole time, and although that was his schtick, it really doesn't look like an act here.

The film is based on a real-life race wherein rogue NASCAR wannabes rocket their way across the country as fast as possible. But the supposed subject matter takes a clear back seat to a shitload of hamminess, smarminess, shouting, and stumbling.

Roger Moore provides the most curious character, sending up himself as Sidney Goldfarb, a delusional Jewish guy who thinks he's Roger Moore, who thinks he's James Bond. He clearly relishes the role, and while his actual lines aren't funny almost at all, his absolute smugness about the whole thing is something to see.

Burt maintains his trademark hostility-demanding-likeability, with Dom once again relegated to the mainly humiliating stuff … though he does end up saving the day. Jackie Chan is on hand, apparently to allow for more opportunity to make fun of Asians.

Terry Bradshaw and Mel Tillis are paired up to enhance the redneck factor; Adrienne Barbeau unzips her top several times (she was considered a hottie why?); Bert Convy and Jamie Farr offer their unique brands of unpleasantness; Peter Fonda and Bianca Jagger lend their names probably in exchange for cocaine; Farrah Fawcett ups the pokie quotient in nearly every scene; and Jack Elam fulfills the Marty Feldman Requirement (also the name of a punk band I want to start).

Whether any of this is nearly as fun for the viewer as the people making the film is up for debate. The Cannonball Run certainly is not classic comedy, but it's enormously fun to watch … even if the humor is similar to pelting lepers with used tampons.

Review by La Fée