Cannonball Run II, 1984.
Directed by Hal Needham.
Starring Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Jamie Farr, Telly Savalas, Ricardo Montalban, Shirley MacLaine, Richard Kiel, Sid Caesar, Jackie Chan, Tony Danza, Henry Silva, Alex Rocco, Abe Vigoda, Michael V. Gazzo.
The majority of the drivers from the first film return for a second crack at the top prize in an illegal cross-country car race.
Having had a hit with The Cannonball Run in 1981, it took three years for the inevitable to happen and a sequel to appear and, much like that first film, Cannonball Run II also became a staple of bank holiday television entertainment in the UK. However, in keeping with the tradition of inferior major studio sequels this second outing basically redoes the original but without the charm that carried that film.
Much of that missing charm comes down to the fact that this time around there is no Roger Moore cashing in on his James Bond fame – and like it or loathe it, that was a big part of the appeal of the first film – and also that in the three years between movies Burt Reynolds put on a few pounds and started to look a little crumpled around the edges, which is ironically how a lot of the jokes comes across. More a collection of sketches and recycled gags than a flowing plot, Cannonball Run II begins with Sheik Abdul ben Falafel (Jamie Farr) being chastised by his father King Abdul ben Falafel (Ricardo Montalban) for losing the previous race and then ordered to return to America and organise a new race to prevent shaming the family name. So the Sheik sets up a new Cannonball Run which attracts the usual bunch of misfits to race across the country for a million dollar prize, including the returning J.J. McClure (Reynolds) and Victor (Dom DeLuise), shady gamblers Jamie Blake (Dean Martin) and Morris Fenderbaum (Sammy Davis, Jr.) and Japanese racer Jackie Chan, this time teaming up with man-mountain Arnold (Richard Kiel), along with new contestants Susan Anton and Catherine Bach wearing tight catsuits and driving a Lamborghini (in a direct copy of Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman from the first film) and Mel Tillis and Tony Danza being accompanied by an orangutan in a similar way to Clint Eastwood in Every Which Way But Loose. Alongside the car action there is a mafia subplot involving The Godfather stars Alex Rocco, Abe Vigoda and Michael V. Gazzo alongside Henry Silva and Telly Savalas as gangsters trying to recoup money from Fenderbaum and Blake and each other in a confused attempt to pad out the paper-thin plot.
Like The Cannonball Run, Cannonball Run II has a whiff of nostalgia about it if you are of a certain age but where that first film was a little bit quirky and a harmless excuse to have some big Hollywood stars lark about with fast cars and big stunts, this flat sequel tries to recreate that formula but the result is ultimately a huge mess. The gangster subplot provides a few chucklesome moments as long as you’re up on your Godfather-isms but it is quite a tiresome and bloated thread when all you really want to see is the racing action, of which there isn’t a great deal. Frank Sinatra shows up as a Vegas kingpin and, apart from clearly not filming any of his scenes with any of the other actors as he is never in the same shot as any of them, is quite painful to listen to as he delivers his lines with little to no enthusiasm, which is a shame as this was his final theatrical movie appearance and he was sharing the bill with two of his former Rat Pack buddies. And it is those two buddies who provide most of the fun again as Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin basically carry on where they left off last time with their amusing bickering double act, unlike Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise who just seem to be cruising through the tired script. Despite its many flaws Cannonball Run II isn’t the worst movie you’ll ever see and if you decide to buy the first one on Blu-ray then you may want to pick this one up for the sake of completion, but if you don’t you’re not really missing out on anything.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★