BURT REYNOLDS’ DREADFUL SUMMER PARTY
by Burl Burlingame
Tuesday, July 10, 1984
A minimum effort from all concerned, “Cannonball Run II” is this summer’s effort by Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham to get the public to subsidize a month-long party for Burt and his pals. The home movies taken during the party are edited into something resembling a feature film, at least in length.
They’re asking $4 for admission, and that doesn’t include even one canape.
Burt’s friends are musty, dusty attractions at the Hollywood Wax Museum. They include Dean Martin, whose skin has the texture and unhealthy pallor of a cantaloupe rind and who says things like “When I make a dry martini, I make a dry martini,”—a sure-fire Rat Pack knee-slapper—and Sammy Davis Jr., who looks like a cockroach. Director Needham also never bothered to make sure Davis’ glass eye was pointing in the proper direction. It rolls wildly, independent of the other orb.
Other couch potatoes direct from “The Tonight Show” are the insufferable Charles Nelson Reilly; wheeze-monger Foster Brooks; Jim Nabors, who has swell-looking artificial teeth; and Don Knotts, who looks like a chimp recently released from Dachau.
Dom DeLuise is aboard doing his annoying thweet-but-thilly fat man routine.
Frank Sinatra, in a pseudo-Mafia don role that must have been a hoot in Warner Bros.’ boardrooms, is on-screen for a flash. In the cutaway shots, the other actors pretend they’re talking to Sinatra’s stand-in, who’s about two feet taller than ol’ Pink Eyes.
Susan Anton and Catharine Bach try to fill the jumpsuited bimbo role created by Adrienne Barbeau, but Bach and Anton are two women who look best from a distance. When she smiles, Anton’s lips slide up mechanically over teeth that resemble the grill of a ’57 Chevy; her face has the hatchety directness of a Roman bireme at ramming speed. Bach looks hard, hard, hard; she could crack walnuts with her forehead.
Both women spend much of the film coyly playing with the zippers on their jumpsuits. When they pull them down, the effect is less playfully sexy than revoltingly cheap.
Burt’s love interest in the last film, the quite-apropos Farrah Fawcett, is replaced by Shirley MacLaine, whose crinkly forearms contrast nicely with Burt’s gassy, recently embalmed appearance. MacLaine does provide the only real laugh in the film, during a credit sequence that features otherwise endless, dull outtakes.
There are other performers who manage not to humilate themselves. They include Jackie Chan the martial-arts whiz, Joe Theismann the football whiz and an orangutan wearing an unfortunate amount of pancake makeup.
There’s a plot of sorts; it reprises the last movie note for note.
The theme song is in Spanish for some reason. “Cannooonbowel!” suggests the singer.
The stunts are perfunctory.
The cars are not exciting.
The stars seem stuffed.
The movie is a genuine cultural artifact, a relic given to us by a band of entertainers from long ago, who live in self-imposed exile in the dusty, neon hellhole of Las Vegas.
They seem to have no trouble amusing each other.
It’s not contagious.