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Film / The Cannonball Run
aka: Cannonball Run II

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Easily the most distinguished group of highway scofflaws and degenerates ever gathered together in one place.

The Cannonball is a race. From California to Connecticut. We have lots of fun.
Victor Prinzim, Cannonball Run 2 note 

The Cannonball Run is a 1981 comedy film directed by Hal Needham and starring Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dom De Luise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Adrienne Barbeau, Jackie Chan, and Jamie Farr. It was produced by Hong Kong's Golden Harvest films. There were two sequels, 1984's Cannonball Run II and 1989's Speed Zone! (also known as Cannonball Fever).

The movie is based on the "Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash", an actual cross-country outlaw road race from the Red Ball Garage in New York City (later Darien, CT) to the pier at Redondo Beach, California, just south of Los Angeles. Organized by automotive journalist and the movie's screenwriter Brock Yates. (Yates, replying to concerns about public safety after the first Cannonball: "Never once did we exceed 165 mph.")

The story follows race car driver J.J. McClure (Reynolds) and mild-mannered mechanic counterpart, Victor Prinzim (DeLuise); the latter has a would-be superhero alter ego, "Captain Chaos". Together, they participate in the Cannonball Run in an ambulance — a heavily modified Dodge Tradesman van (which, incidentally, was the same vehicle driven by director Hal Needham during the last actual Cannonball.) They hire a doctor (well.. he owns a white coat, at least..) and kidnap an attractive Intrepid Reporter to serve as a "patient" to help them evade the police during the race. Each of the other Teams Of Hats they race against has their own arsenal of gimmicks for both racing and characterization.

Nowadays considered a guilty pleasure at best, but popular enough in its day to gross $72 million and inspire the sequels. Ironically, 1976's totally unauthorized The Gumball Rally (also inspired by the Cannonball races) is generally regarded as a much better film, even though—or perhaps because—no one involved in that film was actually involved in races themselves. Another unauthorized 1976 film, directed by Paul Bartel and simply titled Cannonball, reversed the direction of the race (making it California-to-New York) and added more of a Car Fu element.

The film is also well known for being the main inspiration behind Sega's OutRun, which came out five years later.

A remake is in the works, to be directed by Guy Ritchie and financed by Warner Bros. and General Motors.

The Cannonball Run contains examples of:

  • Accidental Pervert: Not really accidental, but J.J. takes revenge on Blake and Fenderbaum by telling a cop that they are a pair of flashers dressed as priests, because they think it's kinkier dressed as priests. This leads to Blake and Fenderbaum getting arrested.
  • Accidental Truth: Mad Dog and Batman tell a motorcycle cop that their brakes have failed. When they attempt to stop, they discover their brakes really have failed.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Roger Moore plays an eccentric millionaire who thinks he's Roger Moore — which apparently involves behaving like James Bond. Amusingly enough, the car he participates in the race with is an Aston Martin DB5, which is more associated with Moore's predecessor in the role.
    • "We could get a black Trans-Am. Nah, it's been done."
    • Victor tells J.J. that it is a good thing they have a doctor on board in case someone gets "swamp fever". This is a reference to Smokey and the Bandit II where Dom De Luise played a doctor Burt Reynolds picks up. He was treating a patient for swamp fever. Additionally, both Victor and the doctor refer to someone named "Tessie" who's implied to be really large.
    • Before the race, J.J. tells Victor, "Get me Dr. Kildare. Get me Dr. Livingston. Get me Dr. Frankenstein. Just get me a doctor!". The Doctor he finds is played by Jack Elam who played "Frank", the Frankenstein Monster in the short lived TV show, Struck By Lightning.
    • Not to mention Peter Fonda as a Hells Angel.
  • Adam Westing:
    • Subverted with Roger Moore, in that he's playing a guy who thinks he's Roger Moore. Originally he was supposed to think he was James Bond, but they couldn't get the rights to use the character.
    • Played straight with Terry Bradshaw and Mel Tillis, who play over the top versions of themselves.
  • The Alcoholic:
    • Jimmy Blake (played by Dean Martin). The race organizer describes him as being more juiced-up than his Ferrari. Blake's partner, Morris Fenderbaum (Sammy Davis, Jr.), greatly enjoys his liquor as well, demonstrated by him downing Blake's drink when he's asked to "hold it".
    • Several other racers, including Terry (Terry Bradshaw), Mel (Mel Tillis), The Sheik (Jamie Faar) and others are depicted drinking quite freely whilst driving.
  • All Bikers are Hells Angels: A gang of bikers start a brawl with the racers.
  • Ambulance Cut: After J.J. waves to some women while driving a motorboat, Victor tries to warn him about another boat ahead of them. After the trope plays, they get the idea to use an ambulance in the race.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: the Sheik, who offers to make random women part of his harem (including giving one of them a ring so she can 'get a physical'), and mentions that his mother is thinking of buying southern California in an attempt to dissuade CHiPs officers from giving him a ticket.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Two characters, one played by Jackie Chan of all people, racing for the car company Subaru.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Hong Kong actors Jackie Chan and Michael Hui supposedly played Japanese characters. But when they weren't speaking English, they actually spoke to each other (throughout the film) in Hong Kong-dialect Chinese. Not that early-80s audiences would have noticed or even cared.
  • Ass Kicking Pose: Subverted comically. During the Big Brawl scene, Roger Moore (essentially playing himself) squares off against one thug, adopts an Ass-Kicking Pose... and promptly gets his lights punched out.
  • Author Avatar: Technically, J.J. and Victor, the Transcon Medi-Vac drivers played by Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise, represent Hal Needham (director, pilot of the real-life Transcon Medi-Vac) and Brock Yates (Cannonball Run inventor, script author, co-pilot of the real-life Transcon Medi-Vac).
  • Bad Habits: Blake and Fenderbaum are disguised as Catholic priests.
  • "Bang!" Flag Gun: Seymour Goldfarb pulls this prank on his mother.
  • Blind Alley: The black Lamborghini does it during the opening chase sequence: backing down a turnoff on the highway, waiting for the police car to go past, and then driving out to come up behind it again.
  • Blind Driving: The stock car shows up at the hotel with its hood flipped over its windshield.
    Mel: I can't see shit, can you?
    Terry: No problem. No problem.
    Drives into a swimming pool.
  • Bluffing the Authorities: J.J. and Victor do the race in an ambulance and try to convince a pair of New Jersey state troopers that Pamela is a patient they have to transport to California. However, they failed to anticipate one of the troopers' questions. Good thing they brought a doctor. note 
  • Butt-Monkey: Arthur J. Foyt is essentially subjected to a feature-length Humiliation Conga. In total:
    • He gets covered in broken glass when the good ol' boys' car shatters the window of the conference room he's speaking in.
    • He gets knocked out when Batman's pickup truck crashes into the couch he's resting on. (Yes, indoors.)
    • While he's spying on JJ and Victor, he gets a fruit kabab in his ear. Then someone else steps on his hand.
    • He falls through a window while dodging a speeding motorcycle. (Again, indoors.)
    • His pursuit of a racer results in him having a car accident. Subsequently, his companion is kidnapped by the ambulance drivers (JJ and Victor) and he gets dropped face-first on the roadway.
    • He gets trapped in a phone booth by a rude driver and can't get himself out. He tries to slide underneath the opening at the bottom of the booth, but apparently gets stuck.
    • And he ultimately fails to stop the race. Basically, the only things that go right for him are arresting two racers and avoiding getting ejected into the bay.
  • Calling Your Bathroom Breaks:
    Mel: How long before we stop?
    Terry: Eight hours!
    Mel: D-D-Damn! I gotta go to the john!
  • Can't See a Damn Thing: Mel and Terry drive into a hotel parking lot at high speed when their hood flies open and obscures their windscreen. One of them says "I can't see shit! Can you?" just before they drive into the swimming pool.
  • Captain Ersatz: Played straight during the movie (Captain Chaos... later, "Captain USA!"), but subverted during the Closing Credits ("I always wanted to be Captain America!").
  • Captain Superhero: Mild mannered mechanic Victor Prinzim becomes Captain Chaos!
  • Car Meets House: Mad Dog and Batman park their truck in the lobby of the hotel in the first instance of their 'no brakes' Running Gag.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Seymour Goldfarb's "hat"; he perpetually refers to himself as Roger Moore (implying a possible Napoleon Delusion), and his gimmicks are pure recycled James Bond.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. dress as Catholic priests to try to fool their way through roadblocks. It doesn't help when they are trying to pick a couple of other racers. Adrienne Barbeau's character quips, "Sorry Father, that hasn't been allowed for almost 2000 years!" Martin yells to Davis, "Next time, METHODISTS, METHOOODIIISTS!!"
  • Cool Car: Several, for various values of "cool". Such as the Lamborghini Countach.
  • Covers Always Lie: The Lamborghini Countach in the film is black, but appears red on the movie's poster.
  • Creator Cameo: Writer of the film Brock Yates appears as the race organizer and the director Hal Needham appears as the ambulance EMT.
  • Disguised in Drag: Bradford Compton and Shakey Finch disguise themselves as a pair of honeymooners on a motorbike. Shakey is posing as the bride and is forced to spend most of the race in a blonde wig.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: J.J. crashes his boat because he was distracted by bikini-clad women on another boat.
  • The Ditz: Pamela. She likes trees, and has the attention span of a turnip.
  • Dr. Feelgood: Dr. Nikolas van Helsing is the habit of injecting himself (and anyone else who asks for it) with the unspecified contents of a hypodermic he always carries, which causes him to get a blissful grin and then pass out.
    • The good doctor was a proctologist, so he'd want his patients to be reeeeeeaaaaaalllly "relaxed".
  • Drives Like Crazy: A few of the racers.
    • Even though he doesn't do anything particularly crazy, dialogue between a pair of the Sheik's staff indicates that the Sheik has a habit of striking camels while he practices racing. Later, one of the men with him can be seen puking behind the car after the Sheik skids into the hotel parking lot.
    • Batman gets fed up with the cars backed up in the hotel parking lot and decides to park in the hotel lobby, almost running over Foyt in the process.
    • Batman's partner Mad Dog, when taking off from the hotel, decides to drive through the trees next to the hotel rather than use a road to get to the interstate. He later scares the hell out of Batman when the brakes give out, forcing them to jump a train rather than smash into it.
    • Terry winds up in the hotel swimming pool because Mel can't give him directions fast enough through his stutter. Doesn't help that they were being chased by a cop at the time. It is also suggested that they drive drunk, dropping a load of empty beer cans after departing the hotel.
  • Driving into a Truck: Implied to have happened (which is to say, we don't actually see it happening). JJ and Victor's car (dressed up like an ambulance) is stopped in line at a roadblock which is set up specifically to catch and arrest Cannonballers. While waiting in line JJ spots a semi with an empty flatbed. Cut to a shot of the semi & flatbed with some large, ambulance-shaped object under a tarp. They sneak by the roadblock under there.
  • Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help: Costs McClure's team the race, when Captain Chaos turns away from the finish line to help rescue a random bystander's "baby"(pet dog) from drowning. Lampshaded.
  • Ejection Seat: A Running Gag involves Seymour telling his current companion not to touch the cigarette lighter as it will trigger the ejection seat. At the end of the race, he gives Foyt a cigar and invites him to use the lighter in his car. When nothing happens, he goes to car and asks Foyt how he lit the cigar. Foyt says with the lighter, and flicks it twice. Nothing happens. Seymour flicks the lighter and is promptly ejected from the car.
  • Epic Race: The race runs from somewhere in the northeast (the starting line isn't identified, but they do pass through New Jersey and the organizer says the finish is roughly three thousand miles away) to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California, just south of Los Angeles.
  • Erotic Eating: When J.J. and Victor are trying to persuade Marcie and Jill to be a patient in the ambulance, Jill pops a cherry on a toothpick into her mouth and sucks on it suggestively.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: J.J. and Victor debate what to drive in the race while driving around in a boat. They get into an accident and are taken to the hospital in an ambulance. J.J. asks the doctor how long it's going to take them to get to the hospital. The doctor explains that the ambulance can easily slip through traffic due to being an emergency vehicle. Guess what they end up driving in the race.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: When a van runs into a parked car at about 5 MPH, the van explodes in a huge fireball. And falls off a bridge, for good measure.
  • Faking Engine Trouble: Mad Dog and Batman tell a motorcycle cop that their brakes have failed so he will clear a path for them and they don't have to slow down. A few seconds later, they discover their brakes actually have failed as they are speeding towards a railway crossing with a train on it.
  • Feedback Rule: With a delay. When Mr. Foyt takes the stand at the Friends of Nature meeting, the microphone behaves itself, then it feeds back in the middle of his speech.
  • Flipping the Bird: The Sheik, as he drives away, balls up and throws away the speeding ticket he was just handed by highway patrolmen, giving them the finger in the process.
    THIS is for you and the judge!
  • A Foggy Day in London Town: Seymour Goldfarb (Roger Moore) says this when his car starts filling up with smoke after using the smoke screen and oil slick to get the pursuing police cars off his tail.
  • Forgot to Mind Their Head: This happens twice, both times with the characters working on an engine and hitting their heads on the hood. First, it happens to J.J. when Victor mentions..."Him". Later, it happens to Victor when Blake taps him on the back.
  • Going Commando: During an intimate conversation with Victor, Pamela says that if she had a cape, she'd want it to be pink, because almost everything she wears is pink.
    Victor: Everything? Even your...?
    Pamela: (airily) Oh, I don't wear any.
  • Gonk: Jack Elam's Doctor Van Helsing, in all his wall-eyed Cloudcuckoolander weirdness.
  • The Good Captain: Victor's superhero alter ego Captain Chaos, oddly enough.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: The male members are thugs and/or potential rapists while the female member ends up leaving the brawl with Seymour and participating in the race's victory party.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: Their use here inspired Jackie Chan to include them in all of his films (though of course, his outtakes tend to be rather less hilarious, focusing on the grisly results of stunts going wrong).
    • Two outtakes seem to be more memorable 30 years later than the others... (1)J.J. and Victor standing next to the ambulance as Dom continually screws up his lines; and (2) one with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, disguised as priests, and some rosary beads.
      Burt Reynolds: I'm gonna take these rosary bleeds [sic] and stick them right up your nose.
      Dean Martin: These bleeds?
    • And of course, Victor (as Captain Chaos) getting a bit too casual with Frank Sinatra:
      Captain Chaos: Sir, the Cannonball Run is a race from Connecticut to your ass.
  • Hollywood CB: Everybody in the race seems to have their CB radio tuned to the same frequency. Possibly the racers had agreed to a specific frequency before the race started, but also they have no trouble communicating with plenty of random truck drivers during the race. Relatively justified since in the CB heyday channel 19 was a de facto standard for truckers on the interstate; there were exceptions for specific routes but they were pretty well known. Maybe they simply stayed on 19, or changed to 19 when they wanted to talk to a trucker.
  • Ignore the Fanservice: What happens when the girls in the Lamborghini are stopped by a female trooper.
    "Well hello, hot pants. I don't suppose you've got a driver's licence tucked away there now do you?"
  • It's Been Done: Played briefly as a joke (and Actor Allusion to Burt Reynolds) when J.J. and Victor are trying to come up with a vehicle for the race.
    J.J: I can get a black Trans-Am. Nah, that's been done.
  • Jewish Mother: Seymour's mother, who despairs that her son is running around pretending to be "some goy movie star named Roger Moore".
    You know something, Momma? You're too Jewish!
  • Kung-Shui: During the big fight, Captain Chaos pretty much totally demolishes an old shack: mostly by tossing bikers through the walls.
  • Leitmotif: The sheik has a regal tune with a middle eastern scale. The creepy doctor has a motif that sounds like it belongs in a Frankenstein film.
  • Logo Joke: The 20th Century Fox fanfare is interrupted by an animated car chase that knocks out the trademark searchlights.
  • Lying by Omission: The state police pull over the ambulance of J.J. McClure and company, and inquire why an ambulance is driving hella fast on the interstate. When told McClure is transporting a patient, Nikolas Van Helsing emerges, and explains that the patient cannot withstand the pressurized compartments of an airliner, and that only a specialized treatment in California can save her. The police ask Van Helsing if he's really a doctor, and he affirms that he is. What he omits is that he's a doctor of veterinary medicine, specializing in bovine prolapses; he's completely out of his depth as an attending physician.
  • Made of Explodium: The grey van when Mr Foyt puts it in neutral, but send it crashing into a police car.
  • Metallicar Syndrome: Played with when a black Lamborghini tears past another competitor's car on its way to the finish line. The passed car's driver (Dean Martin) asks if it's in the race, and his co-driver (Sammy Davis Jr.) looks at him like he's an idiot before screaming for him to catch it.
  • Military Alphabet: The Obstructive Bureaucrat trying to stop the illegal road race is watching the contestants at the start gate and getting the woman with him to write down the license plate numbers. He confuses her by using this trope for the numbers (she keeps writing down the word in full until he explains what it means).
  • Napoleon Delusion: Seymour Goldfarb, Jr. thinks that he is Roger Moore.
  • Night-Vision Goggles: Another fine product of Subaru that the Japanese team uses to help them avoid cops.
  • "No Rules" Racing: Nobody's enforcing any rules on the Cannonballers. They can take any route they want, sabotage each other all they want, and use any vehicle they want - or no vehicle at all, as by the end, everyone's dashing to the finish line on foot.
  • Noodle Incident: The story of how Victor found Van Helsing.
    J.J.: I'm sure that doctor's a very sweet man, basically. But don't you ever tell me where you found him. Ever.
  • Offhand Backhand: When Captain Chaos rescues the girls from the bikers in the shack during the big brawl, a final one comes up behind him as he is posing in the doorway, whom he disposes of with an extremely casual offhand backhand.
  • Offscreen Crash: When the Sheik flings the telephone handset back inside the car, there is a loud crash that sounds like metal plates being dropped.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: J.J. slams several punches into the jaw of a massive biker. The biker mockingly suggests "Why don't you try this side?", pointing to the other side of his jaw. J.J. replies "Thanks" and then slugs him with a wrench on the indicated side of the jaw, knocking the biker out.
  • Quirky Doctor: J.J. and Victor enter the race with an ambulance and hire a doctor to give them some legitimacy, but they're forced to find a new one at the last minute when the last one gets sick. note  Victor's replacement is Dr. Nicholas Van Helsing who has a spooky air about him (he's played by Jack Elam) complete with a Scare Chord whenever he appears. He also has a tendency to drink whatever is in his hypodermic needle and once takes Pamela's pulse by listening to her watch. However, he is a knowledgeable doctor and is able to talk a pair of cops out of giving them a ticket.
  • Ramp-rovisation: Mad Dog and Batman use a conveniently placed trailer to jump over a train after the brakes in their truck fail.
  • Random Events Plot: Next time you watch this movie or others like it (Gumball Rally, Speed Zone), compare the number of scenes that are about an illegal, cross-country road race with the number of scenes that just happen to take place during one.
  • Retirony: According to J.J, his father died two days before he was supposed to retire.
  • The Rival: Martin and Davis' characters to J.J. and Victor. They are the only duos that actively try to sabotage a competitor, and they only do it to each other.
  • Rivals Team Up: Everyone's looking out for themselves - until bikers start harassing Bradford and Shakey, and suddenly it's them and us.
  • Rousing Speech: The film shows that rousing speeches can be funny:
    Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome you to what's sometimes been called an automotive counterpart to the Bay of Pigs. I'd just like to say that you are easily the most distinguished group of highway scofflaws and degenerates ever gathered together in one place. Of course you know that certain skeptics note that as soon as we begin, thirty thousand of the nation's most alert highway patrolmen will be out there waiting to stop you guys. But let's stay positive. Think of the fact that not one state of the fifty has the death penalty for speeding...although I'm not so sure about Ohio. You'll be given a card like this. You'll punch out when you start and you'll punch in when you reach the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach. The difference between those two times will be your time across the country. The record stands at thirty-two hours, fifty-one minutes, and believe it or not, those guys did break the fifty-five mile an hour limit. Now let's get that first car up here and let's get this show on the road.
  • Running Gag:
    • Every time Seymour appears, he is wearing a different tuxedo and is accompanied by a different girl.
    • Pamela forgetting Foyt's name and being reminded by other people.
    • Dr. Helsing is always accompanied by a Scare Chord when he appears.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: The hat of one of the teams, a pair of be-jumpsuited Lovely Angels who rely on I Have Boobs, You Must Obey! to evade speeding tickets (or to get whatever else they need during the race).
  • Sequel Hook: During the post race party, Seymour says "Maybe next year, we'll do this again." Dialogue in Cannonball Run II indicates that it does take place the following year.
  • Shout-Out: Seymour Goldfarb/Roger Moore is one huge reference to the James Bond franchise.
    • J.J. briefly entertains the idea of entering the race in a black Trans Am.
    • Arthur J. Foyt's name is a reference to famous racecar driver A.J. Foyt, a 7 time Indycar champion.
    • As a relatively obscure one to NASCAR, Bradshaw and Tillis' characters drive a 70's Chevrolet done up with Donnie Allison's Hawaiian Tropic livery.
  • Splitting Pants: Jackie Chan's character suffers Defeat by Modesty when he splits his pants during a karate fight.
  • Stutter Stop: Singer Mel Tillis, playing Terry Bradshaw's partner in the race, actually has to sing some of his lines just to get them past his stutter.
  • Superheroes Wear Capes: Victor dons a cape and mask when his 'Captain Chaos' alternate personality takes control.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Subverted. Captain Chaos has no real super powers but he is a serious badass. He's also not evil but definitely lives up to his name and has a streak of Stupid Good that winds up costing Victor and J.J. the race.
  • Thoroughly Mistaken Identity: One of Seymour's girls thinks he's George Hamilton.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: After Foyt spends the movie being a well-meaning but somewhat grating constant Butt-Monkey, he catches a break in his final scene when he avoids being subjected to a Ejection Seat prank that instead gets the prankster.
  • Train Escape: Mad Dog and Batman escape a police bike by jumping over a train (somewhat unintentionally).
  • Trojan Ambulance: After a chance comment from a paramedic about how you can "smoke through traffic like shot through a gun" in an ambulance, J.J. and Victor decide to use an ambulance as their vehicle for the race, with them dressed as paramedics, an extremely dubious doctor, and a bystander they abduct as the 'patient'.
  • Undiscriminating Addict: A borderline case occurs with Dr. Nicholas Van Helsing. He keeps injecting himself with a syringe whose contents are unknown (to the viewer). When The Alcoholic Jimmy Blake asks him if it's good to drink, Van Helsing replies "Dunno. Never tried" and immediately squirts the contents of the syringe into his mouth.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The construction foreman who tells Jimmy Blake that the road is open is completely unfazed by: a) a massive brawl going on around him, and; b) the fact that someone he believes is a Catholic priest is punching a biker in the face.
  • Vehicle-Based Characterization:
    • JJ McClure drives a Dodge Tradesman ambulance fitted with an upscaled engine. He's a charmingly devious fellow, seeking to thwart police by claiming to be transporting a patient cross-country.
    • Formula One icon Jamie Blake and his teammate Morris Fenderbaum, also charmingly devious, dress as Catholic priests while driving a 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS, on the theory that law enforcement won't ticket or arrest the clergy.
    • Jill Rivers and Marcie Thatcher, two attractive vixens in skintight jumpsuits, race in a black Lamborghini Countach. Fast women, indeed.
    • The two unnamed Asian drivers race in a high-tech Subaru GL 4WD hatchback with a rocket booster engine and night vision viewscreen, representative of their being Asian and Nerdy. They plan to whizz past law enforcement by running without headlights at night, and with radar-jammers.
    • Terry and Mel, two Good Ol' Boys, drive a replica of a Winston Cup Chevrolet stock car, filled with gallons of beer and two bags of Doritos.
    • Seymour Goldfarb (played by Roger Moore) is a rich British playboy who drives a silver Aston Martin DB5. And it has the Q-class extras that are de rigeur for a Bond car.
    • A wealthy Arab Oil Sheikh drives a white Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow with gold trim. He doesn't need the prize money; he's in the race because "I am destined..."
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story - many, many examples. Landing an airplane on a city street to buy beer? A famous stunt by Curtis Turner. Dressing up as priests? Actually happened (though they drove a Mercedes in real life). The fake ambulance? Actually used in a real Cannonball - by Hal Needham, no less.. They even used the same van in the film.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Marcie tucks her license into her bra as part of her strategy for beguiling cops out of giving her speeding tickets. It works, too... until she's pulled over by an equally busty female police officer.
  • Wacky Racing: The race is relatively straightforward, but the Random Events Plot and the quirky cast of characters qualify.
  • Weaponized Headgear: Shakey Finch uses his crash helmet to knock out one of the bikers during the big brawl.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The race start was all about punching the card for the official race timing. But at the end, it's all about who gets to the finish line first.
  • Wrench Whack: In the brawl with the bikers, J.J. punches a huge biker in the face several times to no effect in a Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh... moment. The biker mockingly points to the other side of his jaw and suggests J.J. try there. J.J. says "Thanks" and immediately smacks the biker across the face with a spanner.
  • You Do Not Want To Know: More like I Do Not Want To Know: J.J. explicitly forbids Victor from ever telling him where he found the revolting physician he recruits to "staff" their pseudo-ambulance. Several times.
  • You Know Too Much: Seymour says this trope word for word when his mother reveals that she found his gun. He takes up the gun and threatens to shoot her. He does, but it's a toy gun.

Cannonball Run II contains examples of:

  • Backseat Changing Room: JJ and Victor get distracted seeing the shadows thru the privacy screen of the "nuns" undressing in the backseat of their military limo, nearing going off the road multiple times.
  • Bad Habits: Subverted. Two nuns convince J.J. and Victor they're the real things so they can ride with them although they have tendencies untypical of nuns. They are actually actresses who are playing nuns in a showing of The Sound of Music
  • Bluffing the Authorities: J.J. and Victor masquerade as a pair of army men transporting contaminated material from a nuclear meltdown to Connecticut. They fail to convince the police officer who pulls them over and he decides to phone them in. The actresses dressed as nuns make him change his mind.
  • Candid Camera Prank: Two state troopers played by Don Knotts and Tim Conway pull over a speeding limousine; finding that it's being "driven" by an orangutan, they're convinced Allen Funt is hiding in the back somewhere and filming them for Candid Camera.
  • The Cavalry: After The Sheik's rescuers are found out and surrounded by the mobsters at the Pinto Ranch, the rest of the Cannonballers arrive to help them out.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: While visiting Don Don about the money he owes him, Hymie expresses his frustrations by smashing a chair on his bigger henchman. It happens again when comes to visit the second time.
  • Cosmic Deadline: Particularly egregious in this film, as the end of the actual race is only shown in a Travel Montage after the big fight scene that serves as the movie's climax.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    Don Canneloni: In the past, the Canneloni family was the most powerful of the families. We controlled drugs, prostitution, extortion, prostitution, gambling...
    Slim: Uh, you said "prostitution" twice.
    Don Canneloni: Well, I like it.
  • Disguised in Drag: Victor, J.J. and Fenderbaum dress up as exotic dancers to get in to the ranch the race's kidnapped sponsor has been taken to.
  • Door Judo: Done for humor, a case of when the door isn't opened from the other side. When J.J. and company infiltrate the Pinto Ranch to rescue the Arab Oil Sheikh sponsor of the race and discover the room he's in, they decide to break the door down, which he, Victor and Fenderbaum begin charging at. Problem is, Blake accidentally pushes the door open just as the former trio run right through it, and thus end up running through the room into the far end with a bonk.
  • Dynamic Entry: A variant happens during the big fight scene, Captain Chaos leaps from a high area down to a bunch of mooks crushing them under his weight and knocking most of them out cold.
  • Enter Stage Window: Fenderbaum does this to Blake in a high rise hotel room. As his character is in the middle of trying to seduce a girl, he's not happy and shoves him out the window, only to be surprised when Sammy stands up unharmed (he's standing on a window washing platform).
    "You are the tallest short man I've ever seen."
  • Flipping the Bird: The orangutan chauffeur gives one to an old lady one when she waves to him.
  • Fiction 500: The Sheik is so rich thanks to his oil that he can easily buy his way out of almost anything. At one point he's making a phone call to buy the supercarrier USS Nimitz because he wants to land his 747 on it, and Don Don's 9 million dollar debt is easily solved by asking him after the sheik bought his ranch which now makes them partners, with him doubling his request to 18 million dollars just so that he'll have some "spending money".
  • Hilarious Outtakes: Like with the previous film, the end credits are accompanied by these.
    Captain Chaos (to Frank Sinatra): Sir, the Cannonball is a race from Connecticut to your ass.
  • Hitchhiker's Leg: The mobsters get The Sheik to stop his car so they can kidnap him by the simple expedient of having a showgirl open her blouse as he drives past.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Blake and Fenderbaum disguise themselves as cops (they still drive a Corvette, though).
  • Intelligible Unintelligible: The Cannonballers are shown to perfectly understand what Jackie is saying, even though he only speaks in Mandarin.
  • Metallicar Syndrome: Used by the two chicks in the Lamborghini to their advantage when they are practicing for the Run by messing with the local cops. They even invest in a false paint job: after getting the local cops all worked up looking for a speeding Lamborghini of one color, they drop by a friendly construction site and have the fake paint washed off. Presto, now there's a DIFFERENT speeding Lamborghini with two hot chicks in it tearing around the local cops!
    "If I tell you boys something, you boys won't think I've been drinking, will you? The white Lamborghini has vanished...but there's a RED one behind me—correction, PASSING ME, and it's got two great looking chicks in it!"
  • Mob Debt: In the second movie, Blake and Fenderbaum owe money to Don Don, who himself owes money to Himey. The gangsters working for Don Don target the Sheik for kidnapping after trying to get the money owed by Blake and Fenderbaum and meeting the Sheik.
  • Oil Slick: Used by Jackie Chan and Richard Kiel's character, but subverted such that they used it after going underwater as a means of playing dead (after releasing debris).
  • Rat Pack: Cannonball Run II stars Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Shirley Maclaine, and Frank Sinatra as himself in the Pack's final on-screen appearance when the racers take a detour to infiltrate Don Don Canneloni's compound and rescue the Sheik, who is having too much of a good time with a harem full of women to want to leave.
  • Repetitive Name:
    Canneloni: When I passed the powers of the my son Don...making him...Don Don....
  • Right-Hand Cat: Don Canneloni has one. It dies on him and gets replaced.
    "This cat is dead. Get me a new cat."
  • Saved by the Platform Below: Sammy Davis Jr does an Enter Stage Window to Dean Martin in a high rise hotel room. As his character is in the middle of trying to seduce a girl, he's not happy and shoves him out the window, only to be surprised when Sammy stands up unharmed (he's standing on a window washing platform).
    "You are the tallest short man I've ever seen."
  • Sequel Hook: The ending reveals that The Sheik has lost the race again and has commissioned another to start the following day. Speed Zone doesn't actually take place the following day, but does establish The Sheik as a member of the previous year's winning team.
  • Shout-Out: Don Canneloni liking prostitution echoes one of Hedley Lemarr's applicants liking rape.
  • Show, Don't Tell: Averted with the race's conclusion. We only see the finish line when the last team finally shows up. We don't even see who wins until the last second before the credits. It's Mel, Terry, and the chimp.
  • Sky Heist: Attempted. One of Tony's and Caesar's attempts to kidnap the Sheik involves using a helicopter with a magnet on the bottom to pick up his Rolls-Royce. After they make contact, they're unable to pick up the car. (Apparently, the helicopter isn't strong enough.) They're still trying to figure out what's wrong when they enter a tunnel and get knocked off the car's roof. The Sheik never notices something is amiss beyond an odd noise.
  • Uncle Pennybags: In contrast to his Jerkass behavior in the first film, the Sheikh is quite generous with his money beyond the point of just showing off. He gives complete strangers enough money to buy a clothing store just because he thinks their clothes are shabby, offers a large prize for the winner, doubles it without needing to, and gives a business partner who is millions in debt twice what the man owes a Loan Shark so his new friend can have extra "petty cash".
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Catherine Bach's character plays it straight in the first sequel to persuade a tow truck driver to go with her team after she and her partner hijack his pickup.

Speed Zone! contains examples of:

  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Alec has a rather friendly conversation with Clyde...while he's being strangled by Vic.
  • Clip Its Wings: This happens to a commuter plane the Van Sloans are using to get to Los Angeles before the other racers. Due to a very ill-conceived hijacking attempt, the plane ends up on the highway and shears its wings off after going under an overpass. The Van Sloans' solution: have the pilot "drive" the plane to L.A.
  • Didn't See That Coming:
    • Chief Edsel's plan is to block off every highway leading into Los Angeles and send all traffic down one route, then catch the racers when they get to a roadblock. However, he doesn't count on 1)a hijacker attempting to take over a plane before it takes off, 2)subduing the hijacker resulting in the plane's wings and tail getting sheared off, and 3)a wealthy passenger (also a racer) bribing the pilot to "drive" the plane to Los Angeles...only to crash into the roadblock and shove it out of the way. To be fair though, who could have seen that coming?
    • Seriously, what are the odds that there would be two red Lamborghinis at the same place at the same time? Let alone that the owner of the other Lambo is Michael Spinks?
  • The Dog Bites Back: Charlie does this twice to Leo.
    • First, after trying to embarrass him in front of Tiffany, Leo asks Charlie to park his car. So, he does...well above the speed limit. Fortunately for Leo, Charlie is such a Badass Driver that he returns the car to the entrance unscathed.
    • Again at the end, Leo continues to bully Charlie and starts to include Tiffany in his harsh treatment as well. Finally having had enough, Charlie grabs Leo and punches him out.
    • Charlie's not the only dog who bites back, though. Valentino is forced into the race by his brother Donato threatening something bad. (We don't hear what it is, though.) After the race is over, Valentino calls up Donato and really lays into him, telling him he gave the Lamborghini to Flash, that Donato's wife sleeps with all the mechanics, and that he's staying in America.
  • Driving into a Truck: The driver of the Countach calls for help to a trucker hauling a empty car carrier when being pursued by a state cop. The trucker agrees. With some fancy driving the speeder loses the cop by driving aboard the car carrier... or so he thinks. The driver unexpectedly gets a tap on his window, and the cop is there asking him for his license and registration. (Its implied that the cop has driven aboard the car carrier also.) The driver gets out of the ticket because the truck hasn't stopped, and they all cross a state line, so the cop is now out of his jurisdiction.
  • Epic Fail: Two of the Cannonball's entrants are flying to the finish line in a commuter jet, which is quickly hijacked. The hijacking is the Epic Fail in this case. First, the hijacker attempts to take over the plane before it takes off. Second, he fails to scare the passengers thoroughly since his announcement of their destination is met with requests for other places to be hijacked to. Third, the argument over a destination distracts him long enough for the crew to overpower him. Finally, the fight to subdue him distracts the crew long enough for the plane to roll out onto the highway and shear off its wings and tail by going under an overpass.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The movie takes place over the course of about forty-eight hours between the opening chase and the end of the race.
  • Getting Hot in Here: Charlie (John Candy) and Tiffany (Donna Dixon) are rammed by a vehicle that is pursuing them. This damages the car's cooling system and the engine starts overheating. Charlie cranks the car's heater up to full to pull heat off the engine while they escape. The interior heats up to the point where they both start stripping of their clothes: thereby providing both Fanservice and Fan Disservice in the one scene.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • Chief Spiro Edsel of the Fraternal Order of Police Chiefs (an organization that has no legal authority itself) would not have the authority to do any of things he does in the film. From the raid to shutting down all the highways in the country. The drivers that were arrested during the raid would've gotten bail—even with a hanging judge—and it's doubtful that any case against them would reach either the State or US Supreme Court since they hadn't actually committed a crime yet. If anything, they could sue the authorities for wrongful arrest and unlawful search and seizure—especially those who had nothing to do with the race.
    • On the other hand, Chief Spiro and his assistant would find themselves in legal trouble for encouraging "unnecessary force" on two suspects, commandeering Vic's Jaguar and subsequently crashing it at Santa Monica peer and then walking away. Some of his rhetoric—"with total repression for those who deviate"—would not do him any favors in court or with the public either.
  • Mistaken for Gay: The French airplane passenger whose accent turns a simple offer of food ("You would like my peanuts?") into a risque proposition ("You would like my penis?")
  • No Name Given: The name of the cop who commandeers the Lamborghini and the first names of the Van Sloans are never revealed. According to the credits, the cop is named Flash (played by Art Hindle) and the Van Sloans' first names are Randolph (Tom Smothers) and Nelson (Dick Smothers).
  • Racing the Train: There's a scene where John Candy's character tries to cross some railroad tracks, but is forced to stop before the train arrives. Then the police chasing him show up and he races the train in reverse in an attempt to beat it. When he gets to the second crossing, he just makes it.
  • Saving the Orphanage: Discussed. Charlie and Tiffany play a guessing game where one thinks up a celebrity and the other has to guess. It's Tiffany's turn.
    Tiffany: She was the actress in that film where the woman was trying to save her farm.
    Charlie: Ooh. That sure narrows it down.
    Tiffany: What's that supposed to mean?
    Charlie: Oh, there's only like nine hundred films where a woman is trying to save her farm or her house or her tree or her town.
  • Vandalism Backfire: Vic and Alec come upon the Lamborghini they raced a few scenes earlier at a convenience store. They spy on Flash and Valentino buying supplies, then plot revenge. Vic acts by ripping apart the Lamborghini with his hands. He's caused quite a bit of damage by the time Flash and Valentino leave the store. While Vic and Alec hide and watch, Flash and Valentino walk behind a row of cars, get into their actual Lamborghini, and drive off. Just after Vic and Alec realize what they've done, Michael Spinks (a well-known boxer) walks out of the store.
    Alec: Uh oh!
    (Both quickly realize their mistake and have Oh, Crap! on both their faces)
    Vic: We should've checked the registration.
    (Cue the Lamborghini's owner coming out of the store carrying two cases of beer under his arms)
    Proprietor: Goodnight champ, come again.
    (Michael turns and sees his vandalized Lamborghini)
    Michael Spinks: My car...
    (Alec and Vic try to act innocent and start whistling. Michael starts getting upset and crushes the two beer cases under his arms with beer spewing out)
    Michael Spinks: (angry and on the verge of tears) My car!
    (In a panic, Vic and Alec race to get into the Jaguar and get away. Michael notices them and runs after them just as they start the car and escape)
  • Vanity License Plate: The Van Sloans drove a Bentley with the license plate RICH KIDS. The character Vic tries to report the car and it goes something like this:
    Vic: Uh, the license is as follows: R, I, C, H...uh, I think that spells "rich"..."KIDS"...with a K...for..."kids".


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Cannonball Run II, Speed Zone, Cannonball Run


Cannonball Run

A police car chases a red car into the structure, accidentally causing the searchlights to go out as they do so.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / LogoJoke

Media sources: