The Gumball Rally
It's a hilarious coast-to-coast, 180 mile-an-hour, go-for-broke, outrageous road race with the world's most expensive cars. And it's all just for glory and a gumball machine.
Plot, such as it is...
Hearken back to the heady days of the 1970s; the days of OPEC, gas lines, poorly built underpowered American cars, and Jimmy Carter. But also the days of the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, commonly known as the Cannonball Run. This cross-country, highly illegal, completely informal road race was conceived of and run by Brock Yates in part to demonstrate that it was safe for good drivers to drive arbitrarily fast on public roads. The idea was simple: start in
This was the first (and best) movie made based on the Cannonball Run idea. "Steve Smith" (Tim McIntyre) is a thinly disguised Brock Yates, and the race really centers around the rivalry between him and Michael Bannon (Michael Sarrazin). The other racers are there largely for comic effect, though Raul Julia, as a Ferrari factory driver hired by Smith as a ringer gets off the best line in the movie: as he snaps off the rear view mirror and tosses it out of the car, he cries, "Whats-a behind me, she's-a not important!"
The movie begins with the racers being summoned by the one word "gumball". When they get the message, they drop whatever they're doing, leave board meetings, and assemble in Connecticut (Norwalk, if memory serves) where the race will begin. The finish line is the Santa Monica Pier, roughly 3000 miles away. The story of the movie is the story of getting there as fast as possible. The racers are more-or-less serious; Sarrazin, in the Cobra, is played the straightest, while the "Crazy Hungarian" going solo on a Kawasaki is almost purely comic relief. One of the teams is driving a van with enough gasoline on board to make the entire trip without stopping, one is a vintage Mercedes 300 driven by two equally vintage old gents, and the Rolls Royce? Ever seen those ads looking for people to drive cars cross-country? And, of course, no chase movie would be complete without a Lt. Roscoe, the New York City cop who is determined to catch those guys, even if he has to chase them all the way to LA to do it.
The director, Charles Bail, began as a stunt man. Like Hal Needham (Stroker Ace, the Cannonball Run movies), he has a deft touch with the racing scenes. He also manages the comedy aspect without letting it take over the entire movie. The driving scenes are excellent, particularly toward the end of the race where they're driving through the LA irrigation system.
This is a great movie for car buffs, nonconformists, and anybody who enjoys a good car chase. Other folks can also enjoy it as it doesn't veer off into gearhead territory very often. It's definitely a creature of its time; it's much funnier if you were around during the 70s and remember the gas shortages and how much cars in general sucked.