Cannonball Run, The (1981): Hall Needham Directs, Burt Reynolds Star

Hal Needham, the former stunt man, who broke into the big time as the filmmaker of Smokey and the Bandit movies, directed The Cannonball Run and its sequel, The Cannonball Run II (1984).

The movies concern a no-holds barred cross-continental highway race, of vehicles of all sizes, shapes, and fitness (sports cars, vans, motorcycle, even a Rolls-Royce) from Connecticut to Southern California. Decorated with an unending series of highway gags, the highway is made alive with a loud musical score, romantic pursuits, spectacular car crashes, and sudden breakdowns.

Burt Reynolds, then at the peak of his popularity, is the films’ star, with Dom DeLuise as his sidekick.  There is some fun in spotting the stars in cameo appearances.  Roger Moore plays a rich nut named Goldfarb, who persists in thinking he is Roger Moore. Farrah Fawcett as an environmentalist who rhapsodizes about trees. Dean Martin and Sammy Davis run the race as a disguised pair of hard-drinking Catholic priests.

Inoffensive and intermittently funny, the two Cannonball Run films provide innocuous entertainment.

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