CANNONBALL RUN II
"My money's gonna be gone before I even get to the car."
THE INSIDE TRACK
The last of the Needham/ Reynolds car movies between 1977 and 1984, "Cannonball Run II" opened June 24, 1984 in the most theatres in history up to that point. It reached third place at the box office (behind "Ghostbusters" and "Gremlins") with a $9M opening weekend, good at the time. But it dropped, and dropped fast. Why? Because rather than a racing comedy, it's mostly a mafia spoof with the actual race itself secondary. Audiences didn't get exactly what they expected: the same movie over again. The box office suffered for it, and it was on video by October.
This was the year that Burt's leading man career pretty much died and failed to recover. His Christmas release was "City Heat" a okay/ not great teaming with Clint Eastwood that ran up against "Beverly Hills Cop" on its opening weekend and failed to light up the box office. While working on that film, Burt was hit by a chair in a stunt gone awry and wound up with a jaw infection which plagued him for years afterwards. The next year, came the troubled "Stick", an Elmore Leonard adaptation that was recut and recut again before release. With a copy of the movie's poster hanging in his office, Leonard had changed the movie's tagline "the only thing he couldn't do was stick to the rules" to "the only thing he couldn't do was stick to the script". During a slow week in early 1985, this under rated thriller opened at #1 then quickly died.
Anyway, "Cannonball Run II" has its admirers, and the fact that it was the last gasp of the "Rat Pack", serving as the last cinematic outing for both Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, lends it some historical significance, but on the whole, it's an end to the Reynolds/ Needham car movie oeuvre that makes you think these guys can do better...and have.
1984: I was 15, a HUGE fan of the first Cannonball, and I thought this was a bit of a disapointment. Hell I admit it...I WAS one of those guys who just wanted the first movie over again!
2007: Yeah, it's no "Cannonball Run" or "Smokey", but it's still fun. Dean and Sammy are clearly having a great time here, in fact Sammy gets my favorite line in the entire "Cannonball" saga. When Dom says, regarding the mobsters who have captured the Sheik, "Maybe HIM could do something." Sammy, clearly a little irritated, says "Maybe HIM could get HIMself killed and take a few of us with HIM." As for Dean, check out the look on his face during the sequence where Burt and company dress in drag and sing "Stop In The Name of Love". He takes a swig of his drink and looks up, clearly unable to believe what he is looking at. Utterly priceless!
THOUGHTS WHILE WATCHING
When Siskel (RIP) and Ebert reviewed this film, they commented on how Sinatra obviously wasn't on set at the same time as the rest of the cast. Sinatra was famous for insisting on one take, so this is no surprise.
There has never been, to this day, as cameo heavy a movie as Cannonball II. People show up, then disappear, with no regard for the, uh, plot. People who, even in 1984 were vaguely known. For instance, who the hell is Doug McLure? Kinda like if today there was an appearance by Skippy from "Family Ties".
"Like A Cannonball", the song by Menudo, is performed at one point in Spanish, a throw to the fact that the first Cannonball was a huge hit amongst the Spanish crowd. Kind of confusing here, and a tip to the fact that this movie was made with foreign markets in mind.
Needham's cameo this time: During the montage sequence starting the race, he argues with the driver of a big wheel. The driver of the big wheel ends the argument by driving over Needham's Porsche, flattening it. Foster Brooks, Sid Ceaser, Tim Conway, Tony Danza, Mel Tillis, Molly Picon, Louis Nye, Jack Elam, Don Knotts, Ricardo Montelban, Joe Theisman, Arte Johnson, Chris Lemmon, Doug McClure, Jilly Rizzo, Dub Taylor, Fred Dryer, Avery Schreiber,
Available from Warner Home Video, most recently as part of their Comedy Double Feature collection, paired with the earlier Cannonball-like flick "The Gumball Rally". Like the initial DVD release, it's completely bare bones, not even a trailer, and it's full screen to boot.
Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise. Dean Martin, Sammy Davis JR, Jamie Farr, Telly Savalas, Marilu Henner, Shirley MacLaine, Jackie Chan, Richard Kiel, Susan Anton, Catherine Bach, Frank Sinatra, Abe Vigoda, Henry Silva, Charles Nelson Reilly, Alex Rocco.