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A.J. Foyt: These people make terrorists look like the Sisters of Charity. These guys are Cannonballers.
DVD ReviewUsually, the all-star comedy will turn into a sprawling godawful mess (e.g., It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World). But sometimes they work beautifully, especially if the scope is kept reasonable. That said, some funny adlibbing and good stunt work make The Cannonball Run a real treat.
Burt Reynolds stars as J.J. McClure, one of about a dozen contestants in The Cannonball Run, a cross-the-country road race where there are no rules. His sidekick, Victor (Dom DeLuise), has the unfortunate habit of turning into a plump and ridiculous superhero, Captain Chaos, when the chips are down. They hit on the novel idea of souping up an ambulance, so that they can hit the lights and siren whenever the situation gets sticky in the race. Among their many competitors is Seymour Goldfarb (Roger Moore), an Aston-Martin-driving girdle factory heir who fancies himself to be....Roger Moore. Jamie Blake (Dean Martin) and Fenderbaum (Sammy Davis Jr.) are a pair of drunk drivers masquerading as priests in a Ferrari. Marcie (Adrienne Barbeau) relies on her charms and her cleavage to get her out of trouble with the law. Mel (Mel Tillis) and Terry (Terry Bradshaw) are a pair of bumpkins with a car full of beer, and Jackie Chan (as a Japanese version of himself) is in a completely computerized Subaru. An Arab oil sheik (Jamie Farr) and motorcycling tycoon Brad Compton (Bert Convy) round out the principals of the field. In order for McClure's ambulance gambit to work, he needs a doctor and a patient. He ends up with proctologist Nickolas van Helsing (a hilarious Jack Elam) and a sexy but completely brain-dead treehugger, Pamela Glover (Farrah Fawcett). The mayhem as they work their way across the country at over 140mph is complicated by the police and a vengeful bureaucrat A.J. Foyt (George Furth). Who wins isn't nearly as important as the fun of getting there.
Director and veteran stunt man Hal Needham keeps up a frenetic pace with a wacky sense of humor throughout. Ethnic humor tends to play a substantial role (characters with Jewish names who don't appear Jewish in the least, and improbable characters like an Arab speaking in Yiddish), so this isn't the most PC film you'll ever see. While there is a certain amount of leering sexual humor as well, it doesn't slide over the edge into grossness. The inclusion of Martin and Davis makes this feel like the old Rat Pack movies they made with Frank Sinatra 15-20 years before.
There are plenty of stunts and car crashes to keep the action fans happy, as well as a climactic brawl where Jackie Chan really gets to shine in his first American film appearance. The product placement reaches outrageous proportions, to the extent of DeLuise singing the Dr. Pepper theme song. Budweiser and 7-11 also get huge amounts of exposure, which is the one point that really detracts from enjoyment of the movie. The music lends an added dimension of humor, most obviously in the near-quotation of Monty Norman's James Bond theme, but less so in the Lawrence of Arabia-like theme that accompanies the Sheik.
At the heart, though, is a talented and funny cast that is allowed to be funny, without being tied too closely to a script. Reynolds and DeLuise, like Martin and Davis, play off of each other splendidly, with excellent comic timing and infectious hilarity. Fawcett is good as well in her brainless role, while giving due emphasis to the finer points that made her legendary poster material. In all, a highly enjoyable over-the-top comedy that delivers on its promises.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: The opening of this movie is quite deceptive; quite grainy and heavily speckled, it at first looks as if it's going to be an unpleasant viewing experience. However, once we make it through the credits, the anamorphic picture becomes outstanding, with deep solid blacks and bright colors. There is excellent detail, though the picture is a shade soft in spots. Overall, however, a very satisfactory picture.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The two English soundtracks sound very good indeed, without significant hiss or noise. Dialogue is clear throughout. The 5.1 track uses the surrounds primarily for automobile sound, and is a quite immersive experience. The 5.1 track is at a hefty 448 kBps rate, which no doubt helps. Bass is excellent and range is only slightly impaired at the higher ends of the audio. The sound doesn't seem dated in the least.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Hal Needham and Producer Albert Ruddy
Extras Review: The prime extra is a commentary from the producer and director. This one is a mixed bag, with some interesting detail about the real-life Cannonbal Run race, which Needham himself ran in one year, and details of their attempts to avoid litigation with Cubby Broccoli over running so close to the Bond line. There's also a lot of vague talk about how funny all of the actors are, without sharing many specific anecdotes with us. About average, unfortunately, for a commentary. In addition there are cast and crew filmographies and bios. No trailer, though.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsAn all-star action comedy that not only has plenty of action but is actually quite funny to boot. A very nice transfer with a moderately interesting commentary, at a bargain price, make this one a no-brainer acquisition for your collection.
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