Cannonball Run II (1984)

The most disturbing thing about this movie resides in the fact that somebody somewhere thought it was a good idea to make it.  I picture a mulleted movie executive in a seersucker suit, doing lines of Colombian Pure and puffing down Marlboro Reds.  In that haze of 80s euphoria, a cleansing moment of clarity forms:  “A sequel…to Cannonball Run!!!” If that first movie represented a righteous pile of Schnauzer doo that made Smokey and the Bandit look like King Lear, then this follow-up is like that giant mound of triceratops shit in Jurassic Park—bigger and stinkier, though.  It’s one of the worst sequels ever.  It’s one of the worst movies ever.  Hell, it’s one of the worst anything ever.

In a way, a sequel was inevitable, much like outcome of taking too many laxatives.  (I know I need to tone down on the doody references, but they just feel too apropos.)  The first movie actually made money, trading on audience good will toward its all-star cast (an even mixture of legends and ding-a-lings).  Its very concept was a disaster:  It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (which really pioneered the idea of wasting a large group of talented people) redone by the cast of Hollywood Squares and endowed with the technical prowess of a snuff film.  Unfortunately, it put asses in the theater seats.  So, here then, is Part 2—a little bit louder and a little bit worse.

The “plot” has the look and feel of a bizarre, incoherent nightmare one might have after chowing down on too much Thai food.  We see Tony Danza and country singer Mel Tillis barreling cross-country in a limo driven by a grinning orangutan.  Dom de Luise gets shot out of a cannon.  And there’s Abe Vigoda.  And Jackie Chan.  And that guy from M*A*S*H*.  Lots of people who don’t wanna be here.  (What kind of compromising stuff did the producers have on Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis—the god damn Rat Pack—to get them in this movie?  Those guys could’ve and should’ve been headlining the Copa and getting plastered onstage.)  These bored celebrities engage in a race across the country for $1,000,000.  Or…something like that.

And maybe, maybe we could float the gibberish plot if the chase scenes were cool. But they’re not.  In fact, this movie feels like it was directed by your neighbor’s grandma (“Honey, show me how to work this camera, one more time.”) and edited with a Husqvarna chainsaw.  Characters in the same scene don’t seem to be together at the same time.  Racers don’t seem to be on the same highways as each other.  This movie is really just a buncha scenes that hang together like caught bandits above a gallows.

Roger Ebert (God bless him) was fond of addressing cinematic flotsam like this with a rhetorical question:  Is this movie more interesting than footage of the actors eating lunch together?  I’ll put a spin on that:  Pick any two actors from this movie (I’ll go with Frank Sinatra and Jackie Chan) and put them in a fender bender.  Spend two hours filming them in a CVS parking lot arguing over who’s at fault.  That would be much more entertaining than this film—and a fascinating exercise its own right.  Perhaps that’s the most disturbing thing about this film—not that somebody thought it was worth making, that conclusion could be reached through some perverted arithmetic—but that somebody somewhere thought that anyone would be entertained by any of this. It speaks to the contemptuous opinion a chunk of Hollywood has for the general public:  That we’re all slobbering Cro Magnons who could be mollified by this unholy patchwork of A-list talent and Z-grade material.

Author: Todd Wofford

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