film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, July 23, 2022

The Cannonball Run 1981 * * * Stars


1981's The Cannonball Run is an opening "Greed decade" movie, a beer and pizza endeavor that was shown more times on HBO than The Simpsons was probably shown on FXX. As something about a bunch of drivers competing in an illegal race from Connecticut to California, "Cannonball" is fun, almost too much fun. It's simple. Just throw in a cluster of big name, Hollywood heavyweights and let them wink to the audience until their eyes dry up.

So yeah, I've seen The Cannonball Run maybe 100 times (mostly as a preteen). As I watched it in 2022, the film is anything but self-serious. The stars of "Cannonball" (and there are many of them) are living off the cinematic hog. They know they're not making an Oscar winner here but darn it if it's not a chance for guys like Burt Reynolds, Dean Martin, Peter Fonda, and Sammy Davis Jr to hang out and shoot the proverbial you know what. Heck, there are lots of action comedies where the audience doesn't have as much merrymaking as the actors but The Cannonball Run isn't one of them (thank the almighty for that).

"Cannonball" is directed by the late Hal Needham. He intersects madcap arcs but the plot is kinda nil. Watching the flick, you realize that Needham was a stuntman first and a director second. No matter. It feels in the early 80s that Hal created a whole new genre annexed, what with all the free-falling car gags, improvised dialogue, pioneering outtakes, and goofy, devil-may-care personifications.

The Cannonball Run was probably greenlit on pure star wattage. It gives the middle finger to the authorities as its characters take on cross-country road racing like it's an actual, titular thing. Unaffectedly, I found "Cannonball" amusing and boldly insouciant, the same way I found Needham's Stroker Ace and Hooper to be. Just grab the Blu-ray, pop open a sixer, and enjoy the jaunty madness that is The Cannonball Run. "Dun dun dunnn!!"

Written by Jesse Burleson

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