With the Fast and Furious series continuing to zoom past the competition year after year, it makes sense that studios are on the lookout for more potential franchises centered around driving fast cars at high speeds. To that end, Warner Bros. has reportedly just enlisted Etan Cohen — not to be confused with Coen brother Ethan — to write and direct a remake of the 1981 action-comedy The Cannonball Run. Cohen is perhaps best known as a screenwriter, having penned the scripts for Tropic Thunder and Men in Black 3, although he did recently make his feature directing debut with the 2015 Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart comedy Get Hard.
For those unfamiliar, The Cannonball Run was directed by stuntman-turned-filmmaker Hal Needham (Smokey and the Bandit), and featured an all-star cast that included names like Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Jackie Chan, and “Rat Pack” members Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin. The premise was fairly simple: teams of two gather to compete in an illegal, cross-country road race. Of course, this being a comedy, lots of wacky hijinks and circumstances ensue that prevent the race from being a simple trip from point A to point B.
The original Cannonball Run was a huge hit at the box office, earning over $72 million domestically on an estimated $18 million budget. A direct sequel — titled simply Cannonball Run II — was released in 1984 and featured the return of Needham and much of the original cast, but failed to live up to its predecessor financially. A loosely related third entry called Speed Zone (a.k.a. Cannonball Fever) came out in 1989, although the only thing it had in common with the first two was the race itself. A Guy Ritchie directed Cannonball Run remake was reportedly in the works back in 2011, but the project never got off the ground.
Considering Cohen’s track record in the world of Hollywood comedy, it’s not too surprising that Warner Bros. decided to tap him for this assignment. Especially since two of his projects — Tropic Thunder and MIB 3 — successfully blended comedy with action. On the other hand, while the Cannonball Run series certainly has its fans, it may not have the brand recognition of other ’80s action-comedy hits like Beverly Hills Cop and The Naked Gun. Additionally, the franchise did not end on a positive note with audiences at the time, going out not with a bang but a whimper.
The concept of an unlawful cross-country street race is definitely one ripe with potential for a modern spin, but the name Cannonball Run likely won’t be enough to attract the masses on its own. If Warner Bros. hopes to reignite the Cannonball Run franchise, casting will make all the difference — in much the same way names like Reynolds and Fawcett helped draw interest to the property in 1981. If Cohen can call upon big names from his previous films like Ferrell, Hart, Stiller, Downey, and Smith, Cannonball Run might carve out a niche for itself in the crowded Hollywood landscape going forward. If cast improperly, though, this race might never make it over the starting line with moviegoers.
The Cannonball Run remake is in early development, and has no current release date.
Source: The Tracking Board