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.

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The Cannonball Run (1981)

cannonballrun_1Starring Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Elam, Adrienne Barbeau, Terry Bradshaw, Jackie Chan, Michael Hui, Bert Convy, Jamie Farr

Directed by Hal Needham

Expectations: Moderate.


I haven’t seen The Cannonball Run since I was about five or six years old, and I remember it being hilarious. As you might imagine, a person’s sense of humor changes a bit after 25 or so years, so I unfortunately can’t list The Cannonball Run as a film that holds up very well. On top of that, I’m watching the film as part of my Jackie Chan series, which is not the best way to approach this film AT ALL. Jackie probably has less than five minutes total screentime throughout the film, and every one of his short appearances is heralded with the most stereotypical Asian music imaginable. He’s also supposed to be Japanese in the film, even though Chan and his co-driver Michael Hui (also a huge star in Hong Kong at the time) clearly speak their native Chinese throughout. Sigh.

But I should try to focus on the bulk of The Cannonball Run instead of Jackie’s glorified, dumb cameo. The story here is as loose as the pants that Jared from Subway used to wear. There’s a cross-country race called the Cannonball Run, and all kinds of drivers show up to take part in it. That’s it. I don’t recall there being a prize to be had (other than side bets and bragging rights), and there’s no actual plot running alongside the race. The Cannonball Run is just that, a wacky race across country. Also the race doesn’t really matter, it’s just a means to put crazy characters into crazy situations along the way. There’s never any tension or sense of time as the race is on; it’s all freewheelin’ fun!

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The Villain (1979)

140420The Villain (1979)
AKA Cactus Jack

Starring Kirk Douglas, Ann-Margret, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Paul Lynde, Foster Brooks, Ruth Buzzi, Jack Elam, Strother Martin

Directed by Hal Needham

Expectations: Low, I’ve heard bad things.


Enjoying Hal Needham’s The Villain as an adult requires one thing: a healthy love of Wile E. Coyote. I suppose you should also like ’70s movies too, but that’s kind of beside the point as this movie doesn’t feel like it’s from any specific time. It’s something that would only get made in the ’70s, but it never feels ’70s-ish, ya dig? In any case, if you’ve ever harbored some affection for the coyote with luck as bad as a 14-year-old’s acne, then you really should hunt this one down.

The Villain isn’t always trying to tell a story, but when it is, it goes something like this: Charming Jones (Ann-Margret) is on a train to town, looking to pick up some money for her father. The Handsome Stranger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is her bodyguard waiting at the train station, ready to escort her home with the money in tow. But before we are introduced to them, we are introduced to the title character: the villain Cactus Jack Slade (Kirk Douglas). He sure looks the part with Douglas’s reckless good looks and determined swagger, but he’s a far sight from a man who can get the job done. After landing himself in jail, he makes a deal to intercept the Handsome Stranger and Charming while they journey home, stealing the money and thus dooming Charming’s family farm.

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