Movie review: ‘Cannonball Run II’

I re-watched “The Cannonball Run” on a cable movie channel (click here for my review), so I decided to grab a look-see on its sequel when it came around the other day on the movie channel grid. Mistake. Big mistake. You can always forgive a fun movie such as “The Cannonball Run” for glaring problems in acting, filmmaking, or just about anything, because the flick is fun. However, there’s absolutely no excuse for the trash that usually follows as a sequel. “Cannonball Run II” (they even dropped “The” in the title along with any semblance of fun) is simply awful with some huge stars that includes a nice chunk of the “Rat Pack” – highlighted by the Chairman of the Board and Shirley MacLaine. All of them, including Burt, should have known better. I like Burt, but you’ll need a barf bag or a lobotomy to make it through this one.

‘Cannonball Run II’
(1984; 108 minutes; rated PG; directed by Hal Needham and starring Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise and Dean Martin)


(NOTE: On May 23, 2018, I expanded this review with additional opinion and trivia, the updating of links and fixing errors such as the names of the actors in the little paragraph above.)

I truly hate to write a negative review about a Burt Reynolds movie. He has done really good ones in drama (“Deliverance”), action-drama (original “The Longest Yard”) as well as his best known car-action-comedy (“Smokey and the Bandit” – click here for my review). My fondest emotion is reserved not for his “Bandit” personality, but for his stunt man movie “Hooper” (click here for my review). This Florida Gator put aside the fact that he’s from Georgia and went to, played football for and is a big supporter of the sleazy Florida State University team, but I just can’t turn away from the pile of crap that is “Cannonball Run II.”


It’s easy to forgive bad films if they are fun. The original “The Cannonball Run” (click here for my review) is just one example. It’s stupid; poorly acted; and pretty much a bad film. However, with its incredibly deep cast just out for a paycheck and apparently some fun of their own, “The Cannonball Run” was tolerable and even re-watchable. Not so with “Cannonball Run II,” as, in just one example, it has two characters named “Betty” and “Veronica” in a not-so-subtle attempt at either humor or an homage.

Cannonball Run II” should have been at least close to the original. After all, it’s the same basic thing! There are big stars (in their twilight, of course) such as Rat Pack legends Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. – you can toss in honorary Rat Packer Shirley MacLaine as well – as well as other “names” including Telly Savalas and superstar-to-be Jackie Chan. You also have TV veterans such as Dom DeLuise, Don Knotts and Tim Conway. So, like TV’s “The Love Boat” (click here for my review of the series), it shouldn’t have been bad.

However, the final product just reeks. It’s unwatchable, although I forced myself along enough to wish I had never started reviewing films on this blog.

The two most embarrassing performances come from TV “M*A*S*H” veteran Jamie Farr (in a nearly sickening stereotype of an Arab sheik – and I’m no PC cowboy) and another TV veteran, Doug McClure, as his servant (I just cannot believe whatever paycheck McClure cashed could ease the searing pain of seeing yourself on screen saying these insipid, stupid lines as a character titled “The Slapper”).

As to what passes for the plot, it’s a car race across country by cool people in cool cars or in customized vehicles. A more detailed analysis of the plot is best described as blah, blah … blah, blah and blah. It doesn’t matter. I’ll tell my story here by singling out some of the dreck served out by “Cannonball Run II” actors:

  • As the headliner and pretty much box office gold at the time, Reynolds as “J.J. McClure” just does Reynolds here … but not with his usual effectiveness. It is an effort completely without being able to convey his usual playfulness, casual disdain for being serious about anything or his trademark smirks and looks at the camera. Nada. Zilch. Zip. It’s just not here for Burt. In case you’d like a little-remembered effort by Burt, try him in the caper film “Rough Cut” with Lesley-Anne Down (click here for my review) and screen legend David Niven.
  • Sinatra’s work was one-day on set and is a cameo as himself. His tiny part is the only enjoyable part of the film just because he’s “Frank” here. He’s much better in the caper film “Assault on a Queen” (click here for my review) and was of course the headliner in the original “Ocean’s 11” (click here for my review). I also enjoyed him in the “Tony Rome” private-eye franchise and he was really good in the police procedural “The First Deadly Sin.”
  • Martin, who plays “Jamie Blake,” and Davis, who plays “Morris Fenderbaum,” just can’t revive what they had in the first film. Yes, I know it wasn’t anywhere near an award winner, but they were obviously having fun (even if it was spoofing themselves – such as Martin’s continual drinking). In this stupid sequel, both are just fodder for mocking. Martin played “Matt Helm” in the 007 ripoff series that started with an adaptation of Donald Hamilton’s “The Silencers” from the book series of the title character’s name. Davis was in “Porgy and Bess” and did an outstanding cameo on TV’s classic “All in the Family” in an episode aptly titled “Sammy’s Visit.”
  • MacLaine, who plays “Veronica,” teams up with Marilu Henner, who plays “Betty” (insert “obvious” emoticon here) and they are actresses who are costumed as nuns and hitch a ride with Burt for the cross-country run. Of course, the only interesting thing about this is that MacLaine dressed up similar to the nun she played to fool Clint Eastwood’s character in “Two Mules for Sister Sara.” Otherwise, neither of these actors should have done the film and most likely don’t like being reminded about it.

I was going to mention more of the cast, but I just don’t have the energy or desire to lose any more brain cells.

If the film had been just marginally better, I would have at least mentioned “The Godfather” veterans Alex (“Moe Greene”) Rocco and Abe (“Salvatore Tessio”) Vigoda who play gangsters along with crime film veteran Henry Silva (who actually acted in the Reynolds cop film “Sharkey’s Machine”); or Foster Brooks, Louis Nye and Sid Caesar as, respectively, “Fisherman 1,” “2” and “3.”

The film stooped so low that the sequel replaced two women who used their physical charms to beat speeding tickets (until a trooper came along with bigger physical charms than theirs) with two new actors. OK, but why give them the same exact character names? I can tell you why: Lack of any creativity. It was an infection on this film.

So, don’t even bother checking out “Cannonball Run II” if you see it on your TV movie schedule grid. It’s just not worth it. However, you can click here to check out the entire list of cast members. “Cannonball Run II” isn’t the only trashy sequel I’ve seen. “Caddyshack II” (click here for my review) is almost as bad, but there’s no comparison since “Caddyshack” is seminal, now-iconic comedy, so the stink of the sequel is worse since the original “Cannonball Run” isn’t that good.

Cannonball Run II” was the 32nd favorite film with moviegoers in 1983 with $28 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. The No. 1 film was “Beverly Hills Cop” with $234.7 million and second was the now-classic comedy “Ghostbusters” with $229.2 million. It was a sensational year for funny films. Here are the other films from that year that I’ve reviewed:

Assorted cast notes (via

  • Cannonball Run II” was the final theatrical film for Sinatra and Martin. Frank had one more TV movie, but this was his last theatrical release.
  • The star power of Sinatra, Martin, Davis and MacLaine was so powerful that the day they were all together on the set in an impromptu reunion of Rat Packers every member of the cast showed up, including those not working that day. Now that’s real star power.
  • Directly from “The stretched Chrysler Imperial limousine (stretched by thirty-six inches), used by Burt Reynolds, was converted by A.S.C. (American Sunroof Corporation) outside Detroit, Michigan, using the front doors from a 1979 to 1981 Dodge St. Regis sedan. This limousine was used in Reynolds’ previous films Sharky’s Machine (1981) and Stick (1985). Frank Sinatra had a similar limousine converted by the same coachbuilder, which is still owned by the Sinatra family.”
  • Cheech Marin was smart enough to leave his “Tire Store Employee” uncredited at the end of “Cannonball Run II.”
  • “Charlie’s Angels” star Jaclyn Smith dropped off the film after being set to play “Veronica.” Her fellow CA star Farrah Fawcett was in the original as Burt’s love interest.
  • Directly from “This film is one of three pictures that actors Jim Nabors and Burt Reynolds made together, all of them being early 1980s movies. They are: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Stroker Ace (1983) and Cannonball Run II (1984).” Click here to read my review of “Stroker Ace.”
  • Finally and directly from “Roger Moore later regretted his decision to turn down a role in this film after finding out Frank Sinatra was appearing. In his autobiography, he states of this, ‘Regrets, I’ve had a few, but too few to mention…’”

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2015, 2018.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without
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