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Cannonball Run II (1984)

cannonballrun2_1Starring Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jamie Farr, Telly Savalas, Marilu Henner, Shirley MacLaine, Susan Anton, Catherine Bach, Jackie Chan, Richard Kiel, Mel Tillis, Tony Danza, Jack Elam, Charles Nelson Reilly, Doug McClure, Ricardo Montalbán

Directed by Hal Needham

Expectations: The lowest.

Ugh. These are the moments I really hate my completionist tendencies. I can’t even imagine how I’m going to get through Jackie’s horrid American films of the 2000s. But those are problems for another day, so let’s focus on the travesty before us. Cannonball Run II is just like The Cannonball Run if everything was less funny and even more boring. Sounds great, right?

So this time the Sheik’s father, the King (Ricardo Montalban), is angry with the Sheik (Jamie Farr) for not winning the first cannonball race. So the Sheik announces a new race and puts up a million dollars as prize money. Telegrams go out to all the previous racers and before you know it there’s a bunch of wild shenanigans on the highways of the American Southwest. The race never really mattered in the first film, but it doesn’t matter AT ALL in the sequel. It is merely a device to shoehorn as many wacky characters into one movie as is humanly possible.

Director Hal Needham, stuntman extraordinaire, definitely succeeds in packing his film with all kinds of crazy shit, but there’s nothing more sad than a boring, unfunny comedy. Cannonball Run II didn’t click with me at all; I probably only laughed two or three times. What kept it from being even worse were the fun cameos from people like Don Knotts & Tim Conway, Jim Nabors and George Lindsey (Yes, I love The Andy Griffith Show), and I was oddly enthralled by the atrocity of the “sinking ship,” but perhaps “burning car” is more appropriate here.

As I alluded to earlier, I watched Cannonball Run II as a part of my Jackie Chan series. His part here feels even smaller than it was in the first film. He has a couple of quick fights, but they’re nothing special. At least they aren’t over-edited and shot in close-up like they would be now. Anyway, they got rid of his partner played by Michael Hui and replaced him with Richard Kiel (AKA Jaws from the James Bond films). They also made Jackie the backseat gadget operator instead of the driver, and without any English dialogue, this makes him something of a Chinese Chewbacca in this one. Is it wrong of me to take all of this as subliminal racism? Like if there’s a white guy in the car, he’s going to drive even if Jackie has the precedent established from the first film that he’s a great driver?

Not to mention that Jackie plays a Japanese guy (because in Hollywood all Asians are the same), but he still speaks Chinese. Then there’s the bartender that can’t understand Jackie, and he asks, “Anyone around here speak Oriental?” and then goes to get Jackie a sake. Cannonball Run II was a Golden Harvest co-production, you’d think they could have exerted some influence on the film to pay more respect to Asians. I shouldn’t get too frustrated, though. The Italians in the film all have pasta-based last names, and the Sheik’s family name is Falafel.

Probably the funniest thing about the movie is that despite being about a cross-country race, some huge amount of the movie, like roughly 70% or more, is shot around the same area of desert. They didn’t even bother to shoot it differently or anything; the same mountain is in the background of half the movie. First you see the mountain behind one set, and then in another scene it’s basically the same angle but now there’s another set there in front of the same mountain. They probably built everything side by side and shot the film with as little traveling as possible.

I know there are people out there that enjoy these Cannonball Run films, and I’m glad they have something to tickle their funny bones. But it ain’t me, babe, no, no, no, it ain’t me, babe.

Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Jackie Chan: Wheels on Meals!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! See ya then!

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