Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG for language and innuendo
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed, Jackie Gleason, Dom DeLuise, Mike Henry, Paul Williams, Pat McCormick, George Reynolds
Director: Hal Needham
Screenplay: Jerry Belson, Brock Yates
I'm not sure what it is about Hal Needham (Hooper) that he can make a couple of fun and entertaining films like The Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit, and yet completely lose his mind when trying to direct their follow-ups. Smokey and the Bandit II isn't so much a sequel as it is an unredeemable travesty, ignoring the subtle charms of the original by injecting the most juvenile of slapstick in its place. What were eccentric characters in the first entry are now complete caricatures, total buffoons that could only exist in the world of the Three Stooges -- a world completely different than the one we have already established.
Quite a bit of imagination did go into this film, and it certainly introduces many plot developments that I would never in my wildest dreams conceive of if I were given the task of writing the continued adventures of the regional folk hero. Of course, that's because I would be trying to make a good film -- something which the creators of Smokey II seem to be deliberately adamant against doing. Even if I were trying to make a bad film, I seriously doubt I could have ever come up with anything remotely as awful as this one ends up being. It's not just that it's awful, it's painfully embarrassing, and the first nail in the coffin of Burt Reynolds' (Cannonball Run II, Without a Paddle) career as an actor to be taken seriously.
The Bandit (Reynolds) is back, although at the nadir of his life, with a girlfriend that has dumped him, an attempt at a singing career that has fizzled before it began, and an alcohol problem that has rendered him virtually useless in his career in anti-authoritarian dirty work. However, Big Enos (McCormick, Under the Rainbow) and Little Enos (Williams, The Phantom of the Paradise) have another job for him -- $400,000 if he can deliver an elephant from Florida to Texas. There's a snag, as Bandit's arch-nemesis, Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Gleason, "The Honeymooners"), is still tenacious in his pursuit, especially when Bandit steals his daughter-in-law to-be, Carrie (Field, Forrest Gump) from the altar once again. Compounding the difficulty, the elephant turns out to be pregnant, and near impossible to deliver in her current state.
Smokey and the Bandit II is, at the same time, a retread of the first film and a complete ignoring of it. Here we have the same situation: a proposition by the Enos's, Bandit and Cledus hauling a load in a short amount of time, Bandit also having the bride ride along shotgun, Justice and his son-in-law in hot pursuit, a Trans Am, and country music galore. Yet, for all that this sequel lifts so liberally, in all other matters, the vibe is just completely different. This is a film made for either little children or idiots, with some of the most tired gags and dopiest schmaltz ever injected in a chase flick.
Does anyone really want to see a heavy-handed romance, hokey heroics, and a gut-wrenching animal rescue drama smack dab in the middle of their mindless vehicular carnage flick? Apparently Needham must think so, but I doubt that holds for anyone else. Smokey and the Bandit II is the kind of movie that could only result at the end of a drinking binge mixed with copious amounts of puffing on the crack pipe. Attempts to be cute only lead to puke-inducing corniness, in this egregiously annoying follow-up that has the same cast and character names, but no one plays the same person they were in the first film. The final insulting wad is eventually shot in a ludicrous showdown between the cops and a bunch of renegade semis, and the only real loser is us, the unfortunate fans viewing it.
My personal belief is that a sequel that flies this far off the mark should have had the title from Smokey and the Bandit to the more truthful title of We Were Smoking a Lot of Bad Sh*t. Outtakes roll through the closing credits, although their novelty is negated by the fact that they were preceded by one long 90 minute blooper just before.
© 2004 Vince Leo