I’m the biggest fan of movies inspired by the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash — Cannonball, Cannonball Run, Cannonball Run 2 — yet I had never heard of this movie. Can you believe that? While this is known as Speed Zone in the U.S., it was called Cannonball Run III and Cannonball Fever overseas.
I only found out about this because it was directed by Jim Drake, who made Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol. It was written by Martin Short’s brother Michael, who has worked with the SCTV cast on projects from the Ed Grimley cartoon to Schitt’s Creek.
This movie was absolutely despised by Siskel and Ebert. While the former said, “It is an atrocious excuse for entertainment. If I have a pet peeve about movies is that they are so venal that don’t even try to be good,” Ebert went all in on his hatred for this movie, stating “Read my lips. Cars are not funny. Speeding cars are not funny. It is not funny when a car spins around and speeds in the other direction. It is not funny when a car flies through the air. It is not funny when a truck crashes into a car. It is not funny when cops chase speeding cars. It is not funny when cars crash through roadblocks. None of those things are funny. They have never been funny.”
The teams for this race are:
BMW: Parking valet Charlie Cronan (John Candy), racing for his school rival Leo Ross (Eugene Levy), who sends his girlfriend Tiffany (Donna Dixon, the wife of Dan Aykroyd) along for the ride.
Jaguar XJS: Mob hitman Vic DeRubis (Joe Flaherty!) and compulsive gambler Alec Stewart (Matt Frewer, Max Headroom in the flesh), who have turned Viuc’s contract on Alec’s head into a chance to win money.
Ferrari Daytona Spyder: MIT students Lee Roberts and Margaret (Melody Anderson and Shari Belafonte), who see the race as a challenge that their love of technology can solve.
Lamborghini: Italian porter Valentino Rosatti (Brian George, who is really Isreali-English) and former cop Flash (Art Hindle, Black Christmas).
Bentley Corniche: Cheating rich guys Nelson and Randolph Van Sloan (The Smothers Brothers), who decide to fly to the finish line.
The News Van: TV reporters Heather Scott and Jack O’Neill (Mimi Kuzyk and Tim Matheson) who become part of the story they are covering.
They’re all being chased by Police Chief Spiro T. Edsel (Peter Boyle) and Whitman (Don Lake, Police Academy), who has already arrested one entire race worth of contestants.
Man, this movie has some cameos. Brooke Shields (who was hit by the shrapnel of this movie and got a Golden Raspberry Award for her brief moment in the, well, sun), Alyssa Milano, Carl Lewis, Richard Petty, Michael Spinks, John Schneider (who is pretty much playing a Duke boy in the beginning), Lee Van Cleef in one of his last roles and Jamie Farr, who appears as Sheik Abdul ben Falafel, making him the only actor to be in all three Cannonball Run movies.
Seeing as how this has never been releasedon DVD or blu ray, I don’t feel bad sharing the link to watch this on YouTube. Here’s to a Cannonball Run-themed box set!