There is a cross-America race being held known as the Cannonball Run, and there are some crazy characters lined up to compete in it. For example, Vic Prinzi (Dom DeLuise) rushes into the garage of his best friend J.J. McClure (Burt Reynolds) and apologises for being late, but one of his hamsters had an anxiety attack. McClure is unimpressed, having still not thought of a decent vehicle for them to enter the race with, and is even less impressed when Vic makes reference to "Him", the mysterious figure who may well be turning up along the way. But first, what kind of vehicle could get away with travelling at high speeds along America's highways?
A justifiably big hit or lazy, self-indulgent collection of celebs getting paid millions for messing about? The jury is still out on The Cannonball Run, a Golden Harvest production, hence one of the stars present being none other than Jackie Chan, here representing Japan, bizarrely, and playing himself. Perhaps that was the key to the film's success, sure there were the plentiful stunts, but the production carried an air of seeing the stars at their most relaxed on screen, only showing up because they knew they would have fun and that would translate to the audience.
Of course the paycheques didn't hurt (Reynolds took home a then-record-breaking five million dollars), but this is how we would like to think these stars really were, so Farrah Fawcett was slightly dim, but well-meaning and more importantly available, and Roger Moore really was James Bond in spite of actually being Seymour Goldfarb Jr. So in love with coming up with gags for the cast is the Brock Yates script that the race doesn't get underway until the film is almost halfway over, and the actors rarely seem as though they are appearing in the same movie.
Truth be told, they could have shot their sequences entirely independent of each other and we would never know the difference, well up to the point where they all congregate for the finale. Other stars include Dean Martin (you can imagine he really was, erm, drunk) and Sammy Davis Jr as gambling conmen dressed as priests ("God is our co-pilot!"), Jack Elam almost stealing the show as the sozzled doctor Vic finds to complete their scam, which is entering the competition in an ambulance, and Peter Fonda as a biker who is introduced solely to provide a massive punch up near the end.
Although a lot of the humour is merely silly, if you're in the right mood The Cannonball Run can be very funny in places. There's a "just for the hell of it" feeling to the entire escapade, and if it doesn't match its most obvious predecessor, The Gumball Rally, it's certainly in the same spirit. So Roger Moore brings a pleasing wit to his racer, packing in as many Bond references as he can get away with (and driving an Aston Martin which he never did in the original series), Chan has his moments whether watching Behind the Green Door while driving to alleviate his boredom or getting to display his fighting prowess against the bikers, and DeLuise gets to be Dom DeLuise, dressing up as Captain Chaos, his own special superhero. The ending makes no sense if you have been paying attention (they each were punched in with a clock at the start, not all taking off at the same time, so why the mad dash?), but it is amusing and undemanding. Music by Al Capps.