Cannonball Run [1981]

Like The Gumball Rally (1976) before it, former stuntman Hal Needham's The Cannonball Run was inspired by the same real-life cross-country road race. If The Gumball Rally was the critical favorite, The Cannonball Run was the box-office favorite (spawning the almost-as-successful sequel, Cannonball Run II, a few years later). Aside from top-billed stars Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise (stars of Needham's Smokey and the Bandit series) plus Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. (as horny priests), the movie features many of the same actors (Bert Convy, Jamie Farr) that could be found on a typical '80s episode of The Love Boat (along with the same caliber of writing). But as the tagline notes, "You'll never guess who wins"--and it's true. As in most road-race movies, it's the journey that counts, not the destination. This particular journey includes cool cars (like Adrienne Barbeau's black Lamborghini), crazed bikers (led by Peter "Easy Rider" Fonda), hot martial arts action (from Jackie Chan as a Japanese racecar driver), a conspicuously braless Farrah Fawcett (recipient of a Golden Raspberry nomination for her performance), and possibly the most egregious use of product placement featured in a movie up until that time (one vehicle has "GMC Trucks" noted prominently along the top of the windshield, another has "Hawaiian Tropic" painted on the hood). As with many of the films Jackie Chan has made for Golden Harvest, the Hong Kong-based production company behind The Cannonball Run, wacky outtakes are included during the closing credits. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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