The Cannonball Run is a movie I watched a lot as a kid. It and it’s first sequel were two movies I really loved growing up. I was a big fan of Burt Reynolds and watched anything he was in. The movie was a wacky race flick featuring an all-star cast and it blew me away. It was kind of my generations It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
The movie was inspired by the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, a race created by Brock Yates, a writer for Car and Driver. Yates is also the screenwriter of the film. Hal Needham, former stuntman extraodinaire, was the film’s director. Needham had actually competed in the race in a suped-up ambulance like the one used by Reynolds and DeLouise in the movie.
They keep the plot simple: several teams of racers are competing in a unsanctioned cross-country race and whoever has the lowest time wins. Hijinks ensue as the racers make their way across the country. What makes the movie, though, are the characters. Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise lead the all-star cast as JJ and Victor. JJ is a racer and Victor is his mechanic/best friend who in times of stress is occasionally known to don the guise of “Captain Chaos”. They are joined later by Jack Elam as Dr. Van Helsing and Farrah Fawcett as Pamela Glover.
The cast is filled out with Dean Martin, Adrienne Barbeau, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Chan, Mel Tillis, Terry Bradshaw, Jamie Farr, Burt Convy and the great Roger Moore.
Moore plays Seymour Goldfarb Jr., a American who is convinced he is Roger Moore, except his version of Roger Moore is actually a James Bond type, not just an actor who played Bond. I love this character so much. As a kid Moore was my Bond and I loved seeing him in this movie driving a tricked out Astin-Martin like Bond’s.
The Cannonball Run was produced by Golden Harvest, a Hong Kong production company best known for introducing the world to Bruce Lee and this may be the reason Jackie Chan appears in the film as one of the drivers. They of course have to show off his martial arts skill, so there is a nice brawl with some bikers at the end.
I think The Cannonball Run still holds up today. It’s not a great film, but it has some great moments. Roger Moore is still my favorite character, followed by the team of Reynolds and DeLuise. It was a huge box-office success, though it did not do very well with the critics. Roger Ebert gave it a half-star review. I believe that is a bit harsh. It’s a fun movie with a great cast. It’s nowhere close to being as good as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, but it’s definitely not a half-star film.
Check out the trailer here: