a critiQal film review The Cannonball Run (1981)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: A daredevil (Reynolds) and other characters get in their cars and take off on a cross-country race.

Reviewed
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When looking for something to review for this week’s #TBT Review, we stumbled across The Cannonball Run. Since our reviews of earlier Burt Reynolds films is rather thin, this one seemed like a good one to check out. With a huge ensemble cast that also includes Roger Moore, Dean Martin, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett and Sammy Davis Jr (among others), it seemed like this goofy car race flick could be just what we were looking for.

But, would the ensemble cast make this film a laugh riot? Or has too much time passed to really appreciate the humor in The Cannonball Run?

Burt Reynolds leads the cast in The Cannonball Run, and he’s just as viewers would expect from his resume. Charming and goofy, he’s a solid leading man, even if the film does break away from him quite a bit. As his co-hort, Dom DeLuise is as wacky as ever, even though most of his laughs come from viewers pitying him, rather than him actually being funny.

Farrah Fawcett is just as blonde and airheaded in her role in The Cannonball Run, and makes it look easy. While she’s more known for her kick-butt angel in the classic “Charlie’s Angels” (TV) show, she’s very good at playing goofy when she wants to (not just when it’s too cheesy not to be), and does a good job in this film.

Roger Moore is a standout in The Cannonball Run, as he parlays his appearances in James Bond films to poke fun at himself in this film. Goofy and self-deprecating, his antics in this film let viewers know just how silly he can be on purpose, and lets viewers know if they thought some of his Bond films were a bit cheesy, he can laugh right along with them.

The rest of the cast is decent, but get a lot less screen time. Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. are a bit wasted (in every sense of the word) in The Cannonball Run, and Bert Convy doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, but the large ensemble cast works well together. A younger Jackie Chan also puts in an appearance, but aside from a sequence where he gets to show off his martial arts skills, he’s also wasted by this film.

With such a large ensemble cast, it’s easy to see how the viewer could get lost along the way. Unfortunately, The Cannonball Run seems as if that’s the intent, interjecting nonsensical sequences in throughout the film. Sure, it’s a film about a road race, but actually it’s more of a mash together of vignettes that showcase the different stars in the cast, all tied loosely together around this race concept. Sure, it’s lighthearted and fun, but some of the jokes fall way short, and the film jerkily switches from skit to skit.

Like one of its predecessors, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Cannonball Run seems to be more about bringing a huge ensemble cast together with varying degrees of talent, and giving them free rein over their characters. In The Cannonball Run, these varying visions of how the movie is supposed to play out are glaringly different, and serve to throw the viewer off a bit throughout the film.

With it’s muddled direction, varying success in highlighting it’s multitude of actors, and a plot that just barely ties the film together, The Cannonball Run won’t match up with many viewers’ high expectations. However, if you go into the film expecting to be both amused and sometimes just nonplussed by the 70’s hijinks on-screen, you shouldn’t be too disappointed.

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