Three years after the original film, most of the gang is back together for more hijinks. The Sheik from the original film has to buy a new race to try and rectify the shame that he brought on his family by not winning the first race. Most of the racers are back for what are pretty tired re-runs of what we saw the first time around, but the biggest disappointment is the reduced time that the actual race has on screen.
Martin and Davis Jr.’s characters are in debt to a guy called Don Don, who is also in debt to a mob enforcer. The Sheik bails the characters out but Don Don hatches a plan to kidnap the Sheik and extort money from him. It all results in the racers teaming up to save the day, before going on to finish the race. That’s basically the extra plot that has been shoehorned into this at the expense of more racing stunts and adrenaline rushes; anything for the tired shtick of Burt Reynolds to gurn at the camera another dozen times.
If the first film was bad, then this is worse. It hardly manages to get itself off of the starting line. In fact, we don’t even see the ending of the race and who actually won, all so the creators can offer one last lame joke to the audience. It is literally as if the director has a checklist on a clipboard and is ticking off old clichés that almost worked the first time as well as trying to add a sub-plot that does the exact opposite of what you need in a race film. It all slows down to the point that you have to check to ensure that you’re sitting on your sofa and not in a traffic jam.
A real waste of acting talent – this was the last on-screen appearance by both Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin – it seems as though they’ve literally thrown everything at the screen in the hopes that something resembling a film sticks. Only the orangutan comes out of this with any real respect. Honestly, Rat Race was a thousand times better than this and that’s saying something. Indeed, Wacky Races, with Dick Dastardly et al, is a better representation of fun and racing than this turgid mess.
This signalled the end of Reynolds’ working arrangement with Needham – thank goodness – and is an insult to anyone with a maturity level above that of a ten-year-old. Sometimes nostalgia can be a bad thing. Take off those rose tinted glasses, the sun isn’t shining enough on this film for you to need them.
CANNONBALL RUN II / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: HAL NEEDHAM / SCREENPLAY: HAL NEEDHAM, ALBERT S. RUDDY, HARVEY MILLER / STARRING: BURT REYNOLDS, DOM DELUISE, DEAM MARTIN, SAMMY DAVIS JR., TERRY SAVALAS / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 30TH