A wild, illegal, and popular cross-country car is organized, and the eccentric entrants will do anything to win, including low-down, dirty tricks
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“You’ll root for them all… but you’ll never guess who wins.” I remember reading these words on the poster for The Cannonball Run and becoming hooked before even seeing the movie. I studied the actors’ faces and tried to decide who was going to cross the finish line first. There were no clear favorites, and each of them had a secret weapon they were willing to use to push them over the top.
Burt Reynolds leads the pack as J.J. McClure. In my mind, he was the favorite, and not just because he had top billing. Motivated by the memory of his father, who died two days before retirement, J.J. is determined to go for the glory at all costs. When trying to come up with the perfect cover vehicle for this illegal cross-country race, he has a revelation when he finds himself in the back of an ambulance zipping through traffic on the way to the hospital.
Adrienne Barbeau is the babe in the black Lamborghini who rewrites the speed limit wherever she goes. No one can catch her on the open road, but if she happens to get in a jam, she’s not above using her best assets to escape.
Roger Moore plays Seymour Goldfarb, Jr., who thinks he’s Roger Moore playing James Bond. Confused? Apparently not as confused as Seymour, who races along in Bond’s Aston Martin, complete with oil slick, smoke screen, ejector seat and a new girl in each city. Will Seymour’s identity crisis be a road block, or just the confidence boost he needs?
Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. are Blake and Fenderbaum, two “priests” driving a red Ferrari. They have big money riding on this race and are not about to leave it up to chance. They try to sabotage J.J., their biggest threat, starting a rivalry that threatens to overshadow the race itself.
Jackie Chan stars as… Jackie Chan, Japan’s number one race car driver. Jackie drives a tricked out Subaru with all of the latest technology that 1981 has to offer, including cloaking device, rocket engine and navigation system that sends him hundreds of miles in the wrong direction. Can Jackie take control of the car and get back on track?
Jamie Farr is The Sheik, whose “speed is rivaled only by the lightning bolts from the heavens.” The Sheik is determined to bring the infidel Americans to their knees by beating them at their own game. He even threatens to purchase Southern California to get out of a speeding ticket. Can The Sheik buy his way to victory?
The late, great Dom DeLuise steals the movie as Victor, the mild mannered auto mechanic sidekick to J.J. Victor has an alter ego, which J.J. refuses to acknowledge as anyone other than “Him.” But we know “Him” best as Captain Chaos, the seemingly invincible superhero who appears whenever Victor is threatened. When he puts on that mask, he can’t lose. That is, of course, unless the call of duty causes him to take his eyes off the road.
No discussion of The Cannonball Run would be complete without mentioning the outtakes, which are arguably the funniest part of the movie. While blooper reels are common today, most of them pale in comparison to the missed takes found in this film. DeLuise, once again, is the highlight, from his infectious laugh to his fear of getting smacked in the face by Reynolds every time he flubs a line. Everyone involved looked like they had the time of their lives making this movie.
As for the race itself, it really makes no difference who wins. The hilarious ensemble cast is the real winner, and you really could root for them all.