Movie review: ‘Cannonball Run II’

cbriiI re-watched “The Cannonball Run” on a cable movie channel and reviewed it recently and so I decided to grab a look-see on its sequel when it came around the other day on the movie channel grid. Big mistake. While you can always forgive a fun movie such as “The Cannonball Run” for glaring problems in acting, filmmaking or just about anything, there’s absolutely no excuse for the trash that usually follows as a sequel. “Cannonball Run II” (they dropped “The” in the title) is simply awful with some huge stars (a nice chunk of the “Rat Pack” including the Chairman of the Board and Shirley MacLane) all of whom should have known better. I like Burt, but you’ll need a barf bag to make it through this one.

‘Cannonball Run II’
(1984; 107 minutes; rated R; directed by Glenn Jordan and starring James Garner, Jonathan Pryce and Peter Riegert)

WOW … SORRY TO SAY, THIS ONE IS JUST PLAIN CRAP

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 Florida State University, but I just can’t turn away with nice words from the pile of crap that is “Cannonball Run II.”

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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.

Well, “Cannonball Run II” should have been the same, after all, it’s the same basic thing. There are big stars (in their twilight, of course) such as the 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 that bad.

However, the final product just reeks. It’s unwatchable, although I forced myself along enough to wish I had never started reviewing films a year ago 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 another TV veteran, Doug McClure, as his servant (I just cannot believe whatever paycheck McClure cashed could ease the 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. Try him in the much better caper film “Rough Cut” with Lesley-Anne Down (click here for my review).
  • 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).
  • 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). 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,” 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 as nun 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. 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.”

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” 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 and other movies from the year that I’ve reviewed include:

Assorted cast notes (via IMDb.com):

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2015.
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