Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Movie Log: The Cannonball Run

As I mentioned in passing the other day, my sons and I watched The Cannonball Run last weekend, as part of their general film education. (You folks can show your kids whatever movies you want; I'm going to focus on the stuff I saw as a kid -- it clearly didn't hurt me, did it?)

We're right in the middle of the Hal Needham/Burt Reynolds cluster of car-chase comedies here, after two Smokey and the Bandit movies and Hooper, but before Stroker Ace and its own sequel. And we're also right at the point where the '70s turned into the '80s, with the gleeful anarchy of the National Lampoon years (Animal House, Meatballs, etc.) starting to turn into the crisp-and-slick sheen of the Reagan years. It's not a bad movie, but it's a silly little movie, and if it were a racehorse it would have been sired by It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World out of Smokey.

If you don't know the set-up -- in which case, I hope you're as young as my sons, or spent most of your life other than in North America -- it's pretty simple: there was a real, essentially "outlaw" cross-country race in the '70s, from the New York area to a Los Angeles suburb, and this movie is the officially-licensed comedy version of those races. A bunch of odd teams -- Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. dressed up as priests in a Ferrari, Mel Tillis and Terry Bradshaw (and a half-ton of Budweiser) in a painted-over NASCAR vehicle, two guys on a motorcycle, Jamie Farr as a random Arab sheik, and so on -- compete for glory and a big check, by driving as quickly as possible across the country. Our hero is Burt, of course, and his sidekick is Dom DeLuise. They're driving an ambulance, so, for reasons never quite stated by obvious enough for a comedy like this, they need both a doctor and a patient. The former is Jack Elam, in one of his late bug-eyed comedy roles, and the latter is Farrah Fawcett, in a tight shirt and no bra.

A series of gags and car-chase scenes follow, though very little that could be described as a single, coherent plot. But who wanted that, anyway? Eventually, everyone makes it to California and the end of the race. Again, this is a silly comedy, very much of its time -- but that was a fun, easy-going, big-smile kind of time in America, and there's nothing at all wrong with that.

1 comment:

John D. said...

You want these Effin bleads?

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