Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Smokey and the Bandit II

Total Car-nage!

What's it about?

Tonight's nostalgic pic is "Smokey and the Bandit II" (Universal Pictures, 1980). Millionaire Enos "Big Enos" Burdette (Pat McCormick) is running for governor of Texas with his sycophantic son "Little Enos" (Paul Williams) at his side. Their rival candidate for the Republican nomination, fellow millionaire John Conn (David Huddleston) has started a war with the two using expensive but childish pranks, which the Burdettes are only too happy to reciprocate.

Most involve... stuff... falling from planes.

The current Texas governor (John Anderson) calls a meeting to berate the trio, but afterward Big Enos hears the governor mention a shipment in Florida that he wants delivered to the Republican National Convention in Dallas in nine days. Seeing a chance to ingratiate themselves with the Republican brass, the Burdettes seek out Cledus "Snowman" Snow (Jerry Reed) to propose business with Bo "The Bandit" Darville (Burt Reynolds).
I believe this is Burt Reynolds's official portrait.

Snowman reveals that the Bandit is in a bad way, hopelessly drunk due to his breakup with Carrie, AKA "Frog" (Sally Field). When Big Enos agrees to pay the duo $400,000 for delivery, Snowman gets The Bandit sober while also calling Frog to help keep him upright and stable. There's just one problem… Frog has gone back to marry "Junior" Justice (Mike Henry), son of Texarkana County sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason).
Really. This was the most plausible thing you could think of. Okay...

When Frog abandons Junior at the alter a second time, Justice makes it his mission to nab the Bandit at all costs.
This movie has gunplay. It's just threats and target shooting, but it's there.

Upon getting to Florida, the Bandit trio discovers that the cargo they've been hired to drive is a living breathing adult elephant they name "Charlotte" after Snowman's aunt.
Charlotte loves The Bandit.

Fearing that the elephant is unhealthy, they find and shanghai an Italian immigrant doctor (Dom DeLuise) to look after her, only to find out that she's pregnant…
Pictured: Not Jack Elam. That's a Cannonball joke.

Some movie facts

This is the second "Smokey and the Bandit" film directed by ex-stuntman Hal Needham and co-written with Robert L. Levy, this time with Jerry Belson as a writing credit. In typical sequel fare, it expands the cast and the stakes for the characters while basically retreading many of the beats of the first film.

With much the same result.

This time there seems to be far less focus on the black Pontiac Trans Am (possibly due to performance issues -- the one in this film is considerably less powerful than in the first movie) and CB radios; they're still quite prominent, but not as front-and-center as they were in the last film.
This underpowered model was all they had to work with, so the crew had to use nitrous oxide to boost the speed.

I'm still a little vexed as to how CB radios work in this reality. 

Also of note is the fact that the musical playlist in this film includes more musicians than just Jerry Reed, with songs by Roy Rogers, The Statler Brothers, and Pat Williams.
Pat Williams in a brief cameo.

Other notable cameos are Mell Tillis, Pittsburgh Steeler Terry Bradshaw (back when he had hair), Pittsburgh Steeler Joe "Mean Joe" Greene, and New York Jets defensive player Joe Klecko.
Mel "The Proto-Boomhauer" Tillis.

Bradshaw had hair... but this might not be it.

Star of one of the most remembered Coca-Cola commercials in history. Also, a football guy of some kind. 

Greene gets mean.

Tillis, Bradshaw, and Klecko would all go on to have cameo roles in the Hal Needham movie "The Cannonball Run" in 1981 (which may have had some scenes filmed in concert with this film, it's not really clear).

Pretty much universally hated by audiences

It's not all sunshine and rainbows though. This is an odd case of a sequel being a more competent, complex, and complete movie while at the same time being somehow worse than the previous film. The Bandit as a character is fleshed out considerably more than the first film, and he has an actual character redemption arc (something you wouldn't expect from the character in the first film).

It ends on a cuter, but less funny note than the first film.

We have Dom DeLuise in his second billed role with Burt Reynolds (and sure -- he's funny) but his entire character definition is "bad Italian accent." There's a lot of "downtime" in this film due to the crew having to stop every few miles to make sure that the elephant has some screen time, so it doesn't have the sense of urgency and speed from the first film. There are far more and far bigger car stunts in this movie (including the destruction of a wooden roller coaster and a world record car chase), but they're spread pretty far apart in the movie and seem extremely fake and staged as opposed to the more natural hijinks in the first film.
Racing through the coaster.

They allegedly destroyed about $250,000 1980 dollars worth of cars.

It feels far less of an adventure and more of a wait until they get to the next set piece. They triple Jackie Gleason's role in the film by also having him play Buford T. Justice's brothers Reginald (a Canadian mountie) and Gaylord (a disgusting pastiche of what the general public thought that gay men were in the 1970s), but while Gleason was a popular comedian of the time he's never been that good of an actor, and it really shows here.
Dude, it TOTALLY really looks like they're all standing there together. Totally.

And look, I know that some people get upset when someone talks smack about a movie that they love, but even Sally Field has said in an interview that out of all her movies she considers this the worst one.

A moment of silence

Fun fact: As of this edit, there are only three surviving main cast (not cameos) members: Sally Field, Paul Williams, and Cora… The elephant. Yep, the elephant has outlived almost everyone else involved.

Yes Cora: Cry a tear for Burt.

Not necessarily safe for kids

While this movie is rated PG, be aware that this is a "1980s PG" and as such there is liberal tobacco use, some crude language, and gay stereotypes, but on the other hand they did manage to reign in much of Gleason-as-Justice's overt racism, making him more of a comedic goof than a genuine ignorant threat. It may not be appropriate for younger children. Honestly, I'm a bit surprised they didn't put him in blackface as a fourth brother, "*Racial Slur* T. Justice." 

And gay men merely existing are the BUTT of jokes! Get it? (80s humor, yeaaaaah)

Where can you watch it?

I watched my personal DVD copy from the "Smokey and the Bandit" collection, but it can be streamed via Netflix (with a subscription) in some regions, or rented and purchased from Amazon Prime Video.

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