For the King (Ricardo Montalban) of this Middle Eastern nation, there's only one problem with the Cannonball Run race across the United States, and that's the failure of his son the Sheik Falafel (Jamie Farr) to win it. Therefore to set things right he demands the competitor enter the next race, but there's a problem with that too - it isn't being held this year. What better excuse than to put up a million dollars and stage it himself, with the Sheik re-entering and succeeding this time around? The flyers are sent out to the previous competitors, along with a select few new ones, and soon reach J.J. McClure (Burt Reynolds) who is planning to make him and best pal Victor (Dom DeLuise) their fortune as a human bomb... but it would be a lot safer to try and secure that prize money...
The Cannonball Run was a big hit across the globe, with audiences appreciating the easy laughs and wild stunts as much as the all-star cast were obviously having a fine old time making it. So in spite of Reynolds' protests that he wanted to move on from his car chase flicks, the sort of material that had consolidated his fame as the biggest movie star in the world for at least ten years, he was coaxed back with most of the rest of the gang (Roger Moore and Farrah Fawcett declined of the major names from the first) to give it another go. The law of diminishing returns had set in, and in spite of director and co-writer Hal Needham masterminding the production once again, this wasn't the success the previous instalment had been.
Though it was at least more successful than Cannonball Fever, the belated third entry whose list of celebrities were somewhat more obscure than the ones gathered here. Nevertheless, they did amount to a bunch of stars who had been famed in decades past, with the eighties celebs rather lower down the level of wattage aside from Jackie Chan who was by this time one of the best known actors in the world - though not yet in America or other Western countries. It's odd to see him in a supporting role, speaking his native tongue, paired with Richard Kiel (to keep up the James Bond references from before), but not doing much more than a couple of party pieces along with failing at Pac-Man on his souped up vehicle's computer system.
Yes, it was the eighties all right, but even younger cast members like Marilu Henner, Catherine Bach or Tony Danza had made their names a few years before, and in television rather than the silver screen. What was apparently the bigger draw was the reunion for the Rat Pack, not all of them (there had been fallings out by then) but Frank Sinatra made his final big screen appearance here for one day's shooting, incidentally obviously having been done without any of his co-stars present as quickly as possible, which could be the reason James Brown and not him is known as the hardest working man in showbusiness. Dean Martin (also his last movie) and Sammy Davis Jr were back, and Shirley MacLaine turned up as a double act with Henner as actresses posing as nuns, all so Reynolds and DeLuise could make off-colour quips about wanting to have sex with them.
Really, for the most part it was the biggest name cast 1970 never had, even finding room for Telly Savalas as a mobster whose last scene sees him flung many feet in the air by Kiel, just one of a number of bizarre images this throws up. Another is an orang-utan driving one of the competing cars, except he isn't really it's Danza hidden inside, but anything for a laugh, right? In a manner reminiscent of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, the celebs raced around doing their shtick, except that previous movie had a large following, and Cannonball Run II has mere curiosity value, with only about three genuinely funny bits in it, and one of those is in the credits where the outtakes illustrated what a great time was had by all in the process of making it. DeLuise was likely the greatest asset, donning his Captain Chaos outfit once again ("Him!") and managing to translate the massive self-indulgence to the viewer, yet for the most part it was like watching famous folks having a lavish party while you stood outside, nose pressed against the window, unable to get in. Music by Al Capps.