Release Date(s)1981 (November 8, 2011)
Studio(s)Golden Harvest/20th Century Fox (Warner Bros.)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: C
- Extras Grade: D
It’s long been known that the relationship between director/stuntman Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds was always been one of friendship. Reynolds would appear in Needham’s projects often, even if he didn’t totally believe in them. This goes all the way back to the 1970s when they would often work together on films like White Lightning and Gator. Flash forward to 1981: after the runaway success of Smokey and the Bandit with Needham in the director’s seat (as well as its sequel), Needham called on his friend Burt Reynolds once again for The Cannonball Run, which was poised to be an all-star, cross-country, drag racing, comedy extravaganza.
A wacky 80s screwball farce with an It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World vibe, The Cannonball Run was surprisingly successful at the box office, but was predictably panned by critics. The all-star cast includes Dom DeLuise, Farah Fawcett, Roger Moore, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jackie Chan, Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Farr, and many others. It’s not a film that’s aged particularly well, and not just because the vehicles, gadgets, and landmarks have changed, but also due to the type of comedy. It harkens back to a different time when playing stereotypical Asian-type music whenever Jackie Chan pops up on screen was more acceptable than it is today. However, for those who remember it and saw it either theatrically or through repeated cable airings, The Cannonball Run has always been a tried and true favorite.
Warner Bros.’ Blu-ray release of the film features a presentation that’s quite passable, despite having obvious DNR and edge enhancement applied to it. Grain levels are minimal with acceptable levels of fine detail on both costumes and objects, but facial features tend to be a bit waxy. Color reproduction, however, is excellent, with multiple hues popping all over place due the various racing vehicles, their inhabitants, and the various environments. Black levels are merely ok and overall brightness is adequate, but the frame is fairly stable with only mild film damage leftover, which is not much more than scratches and speckling. It actually looks quite good in motion, all things considered. The only audio option available is an English 5.1 DTS-HD track with subtitle options in English SDH, Spanish, and French. This is a release that would likely benefit from having its original theatrical audio presentation because as is, the 5.1 doesn’t do much to enhance the experience. Dialogue is well-represented, as is music and score, but sound effects tend to never be that impressive, especially concerning the engines of the racing vehicles. There isn’t much low end to be had, nor is there any directionality or atmospherics to really sell it. It’s an ok track, but unnecessary. The only extra included is a carried-over audio commentary with director Hal Needham and producer Albert S. Ruddy.
If nutty and sometimes nonsensical hi-jinks and corny one-liners are your bread and butter, The Cannonball Run is a title you need to look into. For me, it’s middle of the road territory, meaning that it’s mildly entertaining, but not enough to warrant many future viewings. It’s more enjoyable just to see all of various cameo appearances that pop up in it, but as a comedy, it doesn’t do much for me as it’s a little too broad. However, you be the judge.
- Tim Salmons