Cinema: Rushes: Jul. 6, 1981

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Johnny Carson calls this movie "an industrial-strength laxative." He should know—for The Cannonball Run is like the Tonight show on wheels, full of Carson regulars poking fun at their TV-bred images. Burt Reynolds outsmarts the smokeys; Farrah Fawcett sounds like a Barbie doll who's swallowed helium; Sammy Davis Jr. flashes his Chiclets; Jamie Farr does Arab jokes; Dean Martin gooses Dom DeLuise. Reynolds avers that this will be his last redneck rollicker. Wanna bet? He was paid a reported $5 million for moseying through Cannonball, which opened to the third highest grossing weekend business in U.S. movie history. Superman II, which premiered the same day, is first; Star Trek—the Motion Picture is second. Moviegoers, it seems, are flocking to the tried and true. And Burt Reynolds is determined to keep trying hot-rod-and-cold-beer comedy until he gets it right.


Forget about Charles and his Shy Di. The true royal tandem this summer is a prince-frog named Kermit and his porcine treasure, Miss Piggy. In their sequel to The Muppet Movie, Jim Henson's Dynel delights are out to retrieve the fabulous Baseball Diamond and bring to justice the swine—oops, dastard—who stole it. Caper never lives up to Kermit's early promise: "Boy, I wish I were you people seeing this picture for the first time." Fozzie Bear, Animal, Gonzo and the rest are more at home subverting the rigid formulas of TV. But as the Divine Miss P says here, "Not to sweat." The Muppets blend in seamlessly with real-life locations, and the sow's dear herself stars in an elaborately silly underwater ballet that should leave Esther Williams wrinkled with envy.


Private Benjamin, meet Meatballs. Bill Murray of Saturday Night Live, meet Harold Ramis, John Candy, Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas of SCTV. Psycho from Taxi Driver, meet martial music from 1941. Tired moviegoer, meet tired moviemakers. And note: Murray, he of the choirboy face and pseudo-hip slouch, is convincing as a soldier who maneuvers his platoon into and out of World War III. Director Ivan Reitman is a canny merchant. He knows that the easy laughs are the surest, that teen-agers love to watch goofballs shape up without losing their shambling style, and that it doesn't hurt business to insert a sorority shower scene or nude mud-wrestling match every half-hour or so. Stripes will keep potential felons off the streets for two hours. Few people seem to be asking, these days, that movies do more.