The Cannonball Run

The Cannonball Run. Golden Harvest Company 1981.

Before Watching the movie:

Everything I know about this film comes from the back of the box. I’d heard the title and was probably vaguely aware it was about cars and driving somehow, but nobody ever talked about it, just of it. I guess it will be fun. It will definitely be filled with another era’s popular stars, most of whom I don’t directly care about.

I found it on the shelf and thought I’d watch it based on its apparent popularity, but I’m not especially looking forward to a long, confusing ensemble road movie.

During/after the movie:

Burt Reynolds and Dom Deluise are a pair of racers planning to compete in an illegal cross-country road race. Their strategy is to drive an ambulance in order to get away with their speeding, and for extra credibility, they hire an odd and probably drugged doctor and kidnap Farrah Fawcett to be their patient. Among their competitors are a pair of impostor priests, two sexy ladies relying on their charms to get them past the police, a wealthy heir who believes he’s Roger Moore (played by Roger Moore) and acts like James Bond, Jackie Chan driving a buggy computerized car, and the sheik of some Islamic nation. The contenders play dirty, and our heroes find themselves befriending their shanghaied passenger.

I didn’t expect the movie to be as funny as it was. The premise could just as easily have worked with an action drama, and probably has. There are also less characters involved than I expected. I was thinking more along the lines of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, which I had a hard time following. There are just enough characters to keep track of, though I did forget a few of the less interesting ones.

Burt Reynolds is supposedly one of the icons of 70s manliness, but comes off softer than I expected. He’s a realistic man who happens to be ruggedly handsome and sport a well-coiffed caterpillar on his face. Dom Deluise is… well, he’s about what one comes to expect of Deluise’s leading roles: somewhat dumb and naive. His “Captain Chaos” persona is an unusual twist, though. The character seems to set the superhero as a completely different, schizoid personality, who helps when help is required.

The jokes are fresh and mostly unpredictable. I caught myself laughing a lot more than I’m used to with comedies, just because of the surprise factor. This film is legitimately funny. Even though it is unafraid to make coarse jokes, it isn’t limited by them. Enjoyable by most tastes.

See this movie: for a lighthearted and fun flouting of the law.

Don’t see this movie: if you drive 25 MPH in the slow lane.

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