Screening as part of the Hong Kong Film Archive’s grand retrospective on the output of Golden Harvest, I jumped at the chance to see this on the big screen. I had fond memories of this live action Wacky Races from my youth, and while I had come to understand that the film was really little more than a cameo-filled goof-off I was still hoping for some nostalgic fun. Oh how wrong I was.
The fact that there were probably only 10 people in the cinema should have hinted at what lay in store, but nothing could have prepared me for how bad this film was. This film is a nonsensical chore from beginning to end. There is almost no plot to speak of, threadbare evidence to support the notion that a script was ever submitted, and nothing that comes close to being labelled a decent performance.
Burt Reynolds is a vile misgynist and bully, who spends the film leering over the bra-less airheaded bimbo that is Farrah Fawcett (I kept waiting for the big reveal that she was really a smart, sassy driver – nope), when he isn’t slapping about his borderline certifiable buddy, Victor (Dom DeLuise). The guy thinks he is a superhero – even carries around a costume and refers to himself in the third person – while his friends just think he’s cute.
Roger Moore plays a washed up actor who pretends to be Roger Moore (I think – I got confused), while others, like Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. seem to have drunkenly walked on set during a break from one of their Vegas gigs.
Sure it’s great to see Adrienne Barbeau and her driving buddy in their busty jumpsuits, while Jackie Chan and Michael Hui are amusing, even if they clearly have little more clue what they are doing in the movie than their characters do, but a number of the other stars have since faded from memory, and as a result their appearances failed to make an impact.
When you have a star-studded caper movie like this, centring around a 3000 mile race from one coast of the USA to the other, you should be able to expect some decent pile ups and stuntwork – at the very least. Sadly, The Cannonball Run features even fewer scenes of daring-do than it does laughs. I really should have kept my cloudy memories from the 80s, as that film was leaps and bounds better than this ramshackle assembly of missed cues and botched punchlines. The Cannonball Run is a disaster.