Picks and Pans Review: The Cannonball Run

updated 07/27/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/27/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

It won't do much for the 55-mph speed limit and won't win Burt Reynolds his Oscar, but this tire screecher is an affable way to pass a lazy summer hour and a half. It's based on a real road race—an illegal cross-country speed run. That allows director Hal Needham to muster an all-star cast including Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Farr and Sammy Davis Jr., with bits by such offscreen types as Terry Bradshaw, Bianca Jagger, Mel Tillis and Jimmy the Greek. It's reminiscent of The Great Race, a more ambitious and literate 1965 film. But Needham, who directed both Smokey and the Bandits, and screenwriter Brock Yates, creator of the actual Cannonball race and a driver himself, do much better by their hardware—the stunts are small masterpieces—than they do by their humans. They also settle for easy laughs—proctology jokes, leering at women drivers' "equipment," Tillis' stuttering and, when all else fails, making cops look silly. It's a shame. Nice chemistry seems to be brewing between Reynolds and Fawcett, who charmingly plays an ecology freak. And something could have been made of a macho-macho confrontation of Reynolds and Moore, who never even exchange dialogue. But no matter. You'll likely leave the theater smiling, no small feat these days. (PG)

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