The Cannonball Run (1981)
Before the days of critical global warming and hybrid cars, and before the humourless Fast and the Furious series, there was Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds who allowed themselves the freedom to make films in which cars were the main ingredient and where the plot seemingly was made up as the cast and crew went along. The shameless happy-go-lucky spirit they demonstrated was infectious beyond the contemporary critics' understanding, and while Burt Reynolds undoubtedly spread laughter, his main and somewhat unique contribution was that he provided the viewer with sheer happiness. In The Cannonball Run, we get the added and delightful self-irony and meta-references which makes this an enjoyable and awe-inspiring little goofball of a film.
As with Smokey and the Bandit, on a base level this is about racing and chasing, which is amusing and exhilarating at its best, but repetitive and dumb at its worst. In The Cannonball Run the two effects are scattered evenly. Yates' script and Needham's unsubtle but industrious direction provide us with stereotypes and stock characters in ditto vehicles. And separately, neither the sheik (Farr), the Asians (Chan, Hui) or the female racers (Barbeau) have anything interesting about them. But combined, in the film's fast-paced, playful atmosphere, they all complement each other neatly and give the all-star cast an impressive diversity. Add to that a fair and well-adjusted amount of satire, and you have the basis for this perfectly proportioned comedy that was once slaughtered by the critics, but that has a deserved cult following decades later.