The Biggest Balls of Them All
Before I get started, take the time to soak in how great those movie posters are. Remember when they used to be hand-painted instead of photoshopped still images superimposed onto each other? And how about that music too?
Man, movies used to come up with their own songs! Now every movie just rips some classic rock tune and calls it a day. Where has all the original music gone?
Dah, you kids.
By the early ’80s, Burt Reynolds earned the title of Hollywood’s biggest box-office draw with the uber success of films like Smokey and the Bandit. At this time was given carte blanche to make whatever movie he wanted and he baffled many by turning down Oscar-caliber scripts to make movies like The Cannonball Run with his long time stunt man/directing partner Hal Needham instead.
But I get what he was doing. Burt wanted to make movies with his friends better than impress the Hollywood upper-class. He’d rather have Dom DeLuise keep him in stitches on the set than give an Oscar acceptance speech. I can respect that.
The critics did hate on these. Roger Ebert gave both Cannonball Run and Cannonball Run II half star ratings but it was a blessing in disguise. Any approval from a critic of his caliber would set expectations too high and… he was sort of right.
Objectively, these movies are disjointed. Reynolds and Needham’s style was to keep the cameras rolling until you capture something funny. Characters who should have nothing to do with each other are thrown together because there are two famous people playing them. It is an ineffective way to tell a narrative. But they work for me.
Both films have the same, simple premise. There is an auto-race across the USA with a large financial prize that goes to the winner. So, everyone attempts to outdo each other to make it to the end first while dodging the law. I don’t need to check my brain at the door since the plot never becomes complicated enough to contradict itself.
Some try to race legit with a fast car, while others have different tricks. Burt and Dom disguise themselves in an ambulance to skirt past roadblocks, Jackie Chan uses a car loaded with Japanese technology, and Adrienne Barbeau is armed with… cleavage. Well, it’s all meant for some light fun!
Humor is the glue between the scenes with the fast cars or the pretty ladies, and I did find that most of the jokes landed well. You do have tons of cameos from everyone from Tom Conway to Frank Sinatra, while other celebrities like Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin, Jamie Farr, and Shirley Mclaine play major characters. Yeah, the kids are gonna dig all of these references!
But I think anyone from any generation can see how the actors were all having fun with their characters. They’re getting a kick out of being paid well to have a laugh, and for two hours you’ll have some light fluff to help you digest your popcorn.
Both are #MarsApproved