10 Of My Favorite Bad Movies #6 – THE CANNONBALL RUN
It is hard not to like Burt Reynolds, I mean this is a guy who just comes across as both charming and smarmy at the same time that to not like him seems like a crime. There is no better movie where this is more apparent than The Cannonball Run. Burt is the star of this movie, which itself is a cavalcade of stors. I mean hell, in one movie you get Burt, Burt’s old buddy Dom Deluise, Farrah Faucett, Terry Bradshaw(?), Adrienne Barbeau, Roger Moore, Dean Martin, SAmmy Davis Jr. and Jackie Chan. That is so many great icons in one movie you just know it could never live up to its expectations.
I don’t know which is more frightening, that fact that this movie got made or the fact that this movie is based on an actual outlaw motor race. One can only hope that the zaniness of the movie actually happens in the actual “Cannonball Baker Sea To Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash”. Of course realistically, I imagine the real thing to be a lot sleazier with people f even moral fiber that is lower than those characters portrayed in the movie. Speaking of the characters of low moral fiber, let’s review actors and the people hey play shall we?
Burt Reynolds, who at this point was America’s most popular film star. He plays J.J. Mclure, driving a souped-up Dodge Tradesman Van/Ambulance. J.J. has his buddy Victor Prinzim along with him and he probably wish he didn’t because Victor suffers from a form of Multiple Personality Disorder. Whenever there is a moment ofhigh stress Vicrotr dons the costume of Captain Chaos, much to J.J.’s chagrin (though mostly to his benefit. Then we have Sammy & Dean, pretty much playing Sammy & Dean. Dean plays form highspeed car racer Jamie Blake and Sammy gets the Jerry Lewis role as Morris Fenderbaum. They drive a Ferrari 308 GTS and are J.J.’s chief rivals in this inasne comedy. Did I mention that they dress Catholic Priests in order to get out of trouble? No? Well they do and of course it leads to all sorts of chicanery.
Then we have the Japanese team led by Jackie Chan, who is driving a high-tech Subaru (laugh all you want). Jackie’s main purpose in this movie is to play stereotypical Oriental (except he can drive). Basically you bear through Jackie’s stuff until you get to the big fight scene at the end, when he finally gets to cut loose. Our next high speed felon is Roger Moore playing Seymour Goldfarb Jr. , heir to the Goldfarb Girdles fortune. Seymour, much like Victor, suffers from a very specific delusion, You see Seymour thinks he is actually Roger Moore. The novelty of Roger Moore playing a guy who thinks he is Roger Moore is all kinds of stupid fun as he gets by on being suave and charming. Hell Moore even drives an Aston Martin, which no doubt pissed off Cubby Brocolli (producer of the Bond movies). Using so man Bond mannerisms and cliches led to Broccoli making Moore sign a contract to never make even the slightest Bond reference in a non-Bond film.
The rest of the cast isn’t important (sorry Adreinne Barbeau, though your cleavage is great). The premise ofthe Cannonball Run race is to race from New York to L.A. That is really all you need to know as the rest of the movie is mainly comedy of errors and slapstick. Well, that and the big fight with a biker gang at the end of the movie, but that more of an exscuse to let Jackie Chan cut loose and do his thing. Sadly that isn’t even the best moment in the entire movie. No sir, that belongs to Sammy Davis Jr., who along with Burt Reynolds delivers my favorite line in all of cinema.Now remember, Martin and Davis are dressed as Catholic Priests. After swindling J.J. out of the lead J.J. confronts Fenderbaum and Blake. Whwn they ask him how things are going J.J. responds “Things were going great till you and the Chocolate Monk here…” the reaction on Sammy’s face here is priceless and he immeadiately responds with “The Chocolate Monk?”. I am stating for the record that it is impossible to say that line without immitating Sammy Davis Jr. Hell when there is a lul in a conversation amongst my friends I always fallback on “The Chocolate Monk?” to get a laugh. REally when it comes to that line you have to give Sammy credit. It is a blatanty racist joke that gets a laugh and he easily could have asked to have ti removed. But Sammy was a pro and realized he could play the line for laughs and yet still show Fenderbaum, his character which was another joke playing up on Sammy’s Judaism, getting justifiably angry and insulted at the line.
So here we have The Cannonball Run, a bad movie with a few laughs. The concept is good and the actors are engaging but, let’s face it, they are basically playing themselves, well except Jamie Farr, who plays The Sheik. Movies like this really don’t get made anymore. I mean an All-Star cast comedy is a rarity but an All-Star Cast Comedy that really features an All-Star Cast and no deadweight? Yeah that doesn’t come around too often. Hell the closest thing to deadweight the movie has is Terry Brdshaw and he was a legit sports celebrity back then. I mean George Clooney can try to make as many movies about Dany Ocean and his pals pulling a ‘caper’ as much as he wants, but the fact is you really only consider about 6 of Ocean’s Eleven to be bigtime stars (so by the time you get ot Ocean’s Thriteen you legit star to small fish ratio is even smaller).
Still, you can’t say the movie wasn’t successful. It was the 6th highest grossing movie of 1980 after all. The Cannonball Run is a movie that is entertaining in a good way but by no means is it a ‘Good Movie’. Still it gives us “The Chocolate Monk” and that is good enough for me!