- Movie Rating -

Cannonball Run II (1984)

| June 29, 1984

Cannonball Run II is a car race movie that is so lazy that it does even have a car race in it. 

I’m serious.  Somewhere in the formation of this mess, director Hal Needham apparently forgot about the race, diverted the plot into a comedy bit about mobsters, and then tacked on two-minute animated sequence toward the end.

This movie is as close to nothing as you can get and still have something moving around on the screen.  There are cars, there are airplanes, there are actors; things happen with noise but no one can be bothered to develop a joke.  Maybe Needham thought that if he kept the camera on the actors long enough that something would come out of it, some kind of improvisational magic that the movie’s galaxy of stars might be able to generate.  They can’t, and they embarrass themselves in unfunny bits like a running gag where several people are slapped around by a giddy Orangutan.

This is sad.  The actors here are talented people operating on the principle that if you get enough comedy stars into a movie that some gold will come out the other end.  There’s Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, Mel Tillis, Tim Conway, Don Knotts, Terry Bradshaw, Jamie Farr, Foster Brooks, Telly Savalas, Susan Anton, Catherine Bach, Sid Caesar, Jackie Chan, Abe Vigoda, Alex Rocco, Michael Gazzo, Ricardo Montalbahn, Henry Silva, Jim Nabors, Joe Theismann, Arte Johnson, Dub Taylor and Charles Nelson Reilly.  And there’s even a cameo by Frank Sinatra who appears in a scene with Burt and Dom but seems to have filmed his lines in a different zip code.  All of these people have done good work elsewhere, but here they are just embarrassing themselves.

This is the most cynical exercise in nothingness ever put to film.  The first movie was no masterpiece but at least it followed through.  There was a race.  There was an attempt at some characters.  There was an attempt at jokes.  Here it’s a bunch of disconnect set pieces that have little to nothing to do with each other.  What passes for a race doesn’t even get started until halfway through the movie.  Before that we have to watch insufferable stunt work like Burt Reynolds unwittingly employed as a human bomb at a stunt show.  What?

The comedy here flies so low and has so little ambition that it falls into the laziest of comic potholes: having Burt, Sammy and Jamie dress in drag to fool a bunch of crooks.  This is, for me, the end of the road for movie comedy, the moment when the inspiration has run out and the producer needs to fill time.  When these guys dress has haram girls to fool a group of mafia guys (who are, of course, turned on) the bottom runs out and Needham proves that he isn’t even interested in making a functional movie anymore.  So much is wasted on so little.  So many things are happening in this movie and yet nothing is happening.  I hated Porky’s but at least the guys had the pursuit of naked girls.  This is a comedy going nowhere.  It’s just sad.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy