Speed Zone CoverThe famed film critic, Roger Ebert, called it 'pathetic'. Where as my mate Phil said it was 'bloody marvelous'. But as for me on the other hand? Well? I watched it. This 95-minute movie made in 1989, Directed by Jim Drake; and Starring: John Candy, Donna Dixon, Peter Boyle, Tim Matheson, Eugene Levy, and the Smothers Brothers.

Speed Zone

Despite the best efforts of Police Chief Edsel (Peter Boyle) and his men stopping them in their tracks, somehow, the Cannonball Run racers still manage to get into their respective vehicles and drive towards California, with the intent of winning their annual motoring competition.

But wait up! You do know who the 'Cannonball Racers' are, don't you? Well, there's...

  • Charlie Cronan and Tiffany (John Candy and Donna Dixon): A little and large duo who have to cope with their pain in the ass boss, Leo Ross (Eugene Levy), plus the highway and byways of this long distance road race.
  • Alec Stewart and Vic DeRubis (Matt Frewer and Joe Flaherty): One is an English gambler. The other is a mob enforcer collecting on a debt. And together, these two creeps do whatever they can to win the cash that goes along with this contest.
  • Nelson and Randolph Sloan (Dick Smothers and Tom Smothers): Two brothers that are stinking rich, and have a stinking plan up their sleeve to get to the finishing line first, care of 'Air Brooke Shield's.
  • Jack O'Neill (Tim Matheson) and His Three Person News Crew: Now this journalistic trio do everything in their power to follow this contest with a story in their hearts, and gas in their engine.
  • Valentino Rosatti and Flash (Brian George and Art Hindle): A cop and a character that find friendship and kinship whilst riding around in a red hot Lamborghini.
  • Lea and Margaret (Melody Anderson and Shari Belafonte): A couple of pretty tech-heads that use their electronic savvy to drive fast, skid slow, and win-win-win.

Eventually, most of these racers reach sunny California regardless of all the obstacles baring their path. But still. Would this be enough? Plus is that why what next transpires takes a right u-turn when Police Chief Edsel rears his balding head once more? As racers race - a winner knows there place - the losers get into the motion - but ultimately, a film franchise takes a nose dive straight into the Pacific Ocean.

Now weren't the first two 'Cannonball Run' films just great? They had character. They had humor. They had star power. And in spite of them not having an engaging story-line to follow, somehow they still made up for this pitfall with some pretty decent charisma.

Speed Zone with Art Hindle
But as for this one though? This reluctant third installment, called 'Speed Zone'! No. It was none of these things at all. The jokes weren't funny. The stunts were too few and far between. Plus the overall package was very-very disposable from a cinematic point of view.

Hey! Don't get me wrong, folks. There were some really great ideas in this movie. And I did enjoy how each paring had a very charming way of telling a story-strand with some extra added thought behind it. Heck, I'd go so far as to say that this is the only aspect that this film had going for it. Taking a tried and tested concept and then elevating it to the next level.

However, apart from that, this wasn't really enough within the scheme of things. OK. I admit. Innovation is always a boon to a pre-defined concept or premise. And occasionally it is able to spark that 'old black magic' where character and pathos is concerned. Yet in this case, this innovation didn't quite hit the mark. Making the whole thing feel like a damp squib, not having the charisma, the humor, or the character like the previous movies in this franchise had in spades.      

Speed Zone with John Candy and Donna Dixon

Now listen. I'm not very happy saying this at all. I'm a big John Candy and Smothers Brother fan. And I've liked nigh on everything they've been in since I knew of their existence. But in this case though -- no -- it didn't quite work for yours truly. The jokes felt too forced at best, and the transitions between one paring and the next, were so sporadic, I actually began to lose interest in what was going on the further the film went on. 

Speed Zone with Donna Dixon
Anyway, that's enough 'Speed Zone' bashing for the moment, folks. Here. Check out these filmic-facts. (1) 'Orion Pictures' first released this production on the 21st of April, 1989, and clawed back $3 million dollars at the box office. (2) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'Outoa Races' in Brazil; 'Cannonball Run World 2 / 3' in Italy and Portugal respectively; plus was given the name 'Cannonball Fever' when it was distributed to the United Kingdom. (3) One of the main reasons why this popular film franchise was re-cast and re-titled; was because Burt Reynolds turned down a huge sum of money to star in it. At the time he said he wanted to shed his 'good ol boy' image. (4) Most of this movie was shot on location in the Canadian state of Montreal, plus the American states of Tucson, in Arizona, and Washington, a District of Columbia. (5) You might have noticed that the only actor who reprized his role from the original cast was Jamie Farr that played 'The Sheik'. (6) Now is this a coincidence or not? In one scene set in Los Angeles, Brian George's character references Lucille Ball's house. However, less than a week after this movie opened, Lucille Ball actually dies in real life. Oh! Spooky. (7) According to the 2009 television show, 'Myth Busters', the stunt where the Lamborghini skips across a pool of water to evade the police, wouldn't have been possible to accomplish. In actuality, it would have needed to have been specially weighed down first for it to happen. (8) At the 1989 'Golden Raspberry Awards', this film was nominated in the 'Worst Picture' and the 'Worst Director' categories, plus Brooke Shields won the award for the 'Worst Supporting Actress'.

Speed Zone with John Candy and Eugene Levy

Overall 'Speed Zone' is no 'Cannonball Run' by any stretch of the imagination. The innovations showed great thought. The jokes showed no talent. And the only thing this film has going for it, would be you'd get to see John Candy plus some other eighties greats in a flick that bombed like the Titanic.

Nuff said.