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GRAND THEFT AUTO(director/writer: Ron Howard; screenwriter: Rance Howard; cinematographer: Gary Graver; editor: Joe Dante ; music: Peter Ivers; cast: Ron Howard (Sam Freeman), Nancy Morgan (Paula Powers), Elizabeth Rogers (Priscilla Powers), Barry Cahill (Bigby Powers), Rance Howard (Ned Slinker, private detective), Paul Linke (Collins Hedgeworth), Marion Ross (Mrs. Hedgeworth), Jim Ritz (Officer Tad), Don Steele (Curly Q. Brown, DJ, TenQ radio), Hoke Howell (Preacher), Clint Howard (Ace), Peter Isacksen (Sparky), Lew Brown (Jack Klapper), Garry Marshall (Underworld boss), Paul Bartel (Groom); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Jon Davison; Buena Vista; 1977)
“Below average car-chase comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Mediocre but hot-shot director Ron Howard (“Apollo 13″/”Cinderella Man”/”The Da Vinci Code”) got started directing with this below average car-chase comedy feature. The nonstop orgy of car pile ups, is a road film that never delivers the laughs. Ron bargained with the studio to take no salary for the chance to be a director, merely to receive pay as the film’s star and co-screenwriter with his dad Rance. Roger Corman is the executive producer.

Feisty Paula Powers (Nancy Morgan) is the pretty daughter of wealthy California gubernatorial candidate Bigby Powers (Barry Cahill), who drives dad into a temper tantrum when she rejects her parents’ matchmaking attempt to hook her up with nerdy rich boy Collins Hedgeworth (Paul Linke). Paula instead steals dad’s Rolls-Royce and heads from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to marry Sam Freeman (Ron Howard), a working-stiff environmental research college major–called by her dad a fortune hunter. Bigby then hires private detective Ned Slinker (Rance Howard) to bring back on the quiet his daughter. Collins, in the meantime, garbed in a polo uniform steals a showroom car, after totaling his car, to pursue the couple and his daffy mom, Mrs. Hedgeworth (Marion Ross, Howard’s Happy Days mom), steals the servant’s Volks to pursue her son. The spurned suitor calls a local rock station’s DJ and offers a $25,000 reward for Paula’s safe return and his mom then calls the same station offering a $25,000 reward for Collins’ safe return.

With all sorts of people now involved in the chase, from an inept policeman to a greedy preacher to various goons, there are many crack-ups on the road to Vegas. The question remains if the young lovers can make it in time to Vegas to get a quickie marriage. The unfortunate thing, is that none of the antics were funny. The lowbrow sight gags and juvenile humor left me feeling as if I was in a minor car crash with a filmmaker who is far away from perfecting his craft.

REVIEWED ON 12/29/2007 GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”