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The Cannonball Run (1981)



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When Burt Reynolds and then first-time director Hal Needham hit it big with Smokey and the Bandit, they spent the next seven years remaking it, in sequels and knock-offs like The Cannonball Run, which spawned a sequel of its own.

The Cannonball Run is like a cross between Smokey and It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, or would be if it were even close to as good as either. Alas, it's frankly painful at times how badly jokes flop and respectable stars embarrass themselves. It's a shame to see performers like Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. in material like this. Jack Elam is the only cast member that adds something, though he is not without bad moments, and Burt Reynolds (at home in stuff like this) and Roger Moore (parodying James Bond right in the middle of his tenure in the role) escape more or less unharmed. The worst in show award goes to Dom DeLuise, the subject of one of the most incompetent scenes I've ever seen -- a downright awful superhero bit right at the end, in which DeLuise acts stupid, and all the other characters are inexplicably more interested in that than, oh, I dunno, completing the race they've been running for the whole movie.

And yet. And yet, for reasons I can't entirely explain to myself, I did not miss the hour and a half. Maybe it was the novelty of a movie that had both Sammy Davis Jr. and Jackie Chan in it. Maybe it was that the movie established a fun sort of cheesy tone and sustained it to the end. You know how sometimes someone will tell a really, really horrible pun, horrible enough to inflict actual emotional pain, and you'll laugh at it anyway? This movie was sort of like that, except, generally, for the "laugh anyway" part.

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